OPINION

Misplaced subsidies

When it comes to public transport, the Greek state has always had clear aims: It deems that the public transport system exists to perform a social function and for that reason is willing to subsidize losses with money from the state budget. But that does not apply to the public utilities, also known here as DEKO. The problem is that we want them both to operate as corporations and play a role in social welfare at the same time. But the two objectives are often incompatible. And in trying to achieve both, the state often ends up failing in both respects: The public utilities neither make profits, nor are they any good as vehicles for the governments’ social policies. At the same time, these vague objectives allow the policymakers to justify their own failures. We need to understand that social welfare policy should be conducted through the state budget. Those who need social protection should receive direct subsidies. The money should go to the most vulnerable members of society, not to the corporations in order to provide services. The better allocation of resources will also lead to better policies.