On autopilot

After the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece’s was like an airplane on autopilot. Talking to government officials posted anywhere from the Interior Ministry to the intelligence service, one could see that their overruling guiding rule was to «avoid a flap with the minimum amount of work.» But this approach is dogged by two major problems. In order to fly on autopilot, an airplane must be well maintained and equipped with up-to-date electronic systems. Similarly, a country must have solved all its basic institutional problems and have a smoothly functioning state apparatus. The problem is that two decades of populism have undone every last bit of professionalism and hierarchy in the state apparatus. Despite its Boeing-like surface, Greece is closer to a Dakota. At first sight, Greece resembles a serious European country but insiders know that its inner, state mechanism is a mix of Middle Eastern and European administrative systems. If the autopilot is not working, the only thing that can save you from crashing is an experienced crew, or, in this case, a serious politician. Unfortunately, these are hard to find. Those trendy politicians who like to spout politics in Kolonaki cafes or produce amusing sound bites on morning chat shows can’t be expected to handle matters of state. And when something goes wrong (which is bound to happen if you are careless and incompetent), they look like tragic figures. The problem with Greece today is that the prime minister cannot find a competent crew to fly this piece of junk but at the same time does not dare to rebuild it from scratch. As long as the state is staffed with political cronies, something will always go wrong at some point, spreading a sense of despair and helplessness. The Games proved that there are many 40-somethings out there with a strong work ethic. All it would take is a bunch of serious politicians that could provide a source of inspiration and management.

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