The difficult road of critical reforms

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis may have flown the flag for reforms but if he wants his pledge to have any real impact he cannot depend upon privatizations alone. Without underestimating the significance of state enterprises and the reactions of trade unions to restructuring, selling these organizations is the easy option. The difficult option – and that which the country desperately needs – calls for the imposition of changes in the operation of the broader state system. Sadly, there has yet to be much progress in this area. No one is calling for miracles, but one could make a convincing start. Unfortunately, this has yet to occur. And so the prime minister has made the same slip-up as all his predecessors and praised his own government more than its actions justify. Regarding calls for greater benefits, Karamanlis is right to argue that a responsible government cannot offer more than its coffers can bear. On the other hand, however, the distribution of the pie has not been predetermined. Choices are made on the basis of criteria that are far from indisputable. It may be logical that each social group demands more funds, but it is equally logical that a government assesses these requests with a view to achieving the best possible balance between the needs of different social groups and the state. Unfortunately, neither trade unions nor government ministries have pushed for the better use, or even redistribution, of funding. And this is despite evidence that European and state funding have been yielding fewer results than they could be – from education to defense, from research to health, from social policy to public works. And it is not only corruption that is to blame for this state of affairs but also widespread waste, resulting from wrong decisions, poor planning and the perpetuation of unproductive circumstances. The most radical and productive undertaking for the current goverment would be to purge this dire situation. But this would be a difficult task, needing a strong central policy that would upset certain circles and require systematic and constant efforts.