Hyping the obvious

In the civilized world, a minister who wants to inform the public of a major or minor change in his ministry usually makes the statement himself. Less important stuff is usually left to subordinate staff, such as deputies or general secretaries. In Greece, on the other hand, ministers tend to hold pompous and exhaustingly wordy press briefings analyzing everything right down to shops’ opening hours. I still recall Costas Laliotis’s triumphant announcement of plans to redo the facades of the filthy building blocks around Omonia Square and along Athinas Street. The ministry hoopla and the hype created by the pro-PASOK media the day after led one to believe that the capital’s face was about to change overnight. A few days ago, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, as the coordinator of the campaign to reforest destroyed Mount Parnitha, announced measures to rejuvenate the national park. As was to be expected, Souflias announced the typical anti-flood and anti-erosion measures that customarily come after forest fires in mountain areas. But a humble general secretary assisted by a couple of university professors would have been more suited to the event. Doing the self-evident is no policy – less so an achievement. From a public works minister we expect more. We expect him to make difficult decisions. We expect him to announce how he intends to turn the Asopos River, a current repository of toxic waste, into a viable source of life. We expect him to announce how he intends to convince his fellow countrymen to stop destroying the Thessaly Plain, to stop wasting natural resources by pouring more water for the sake of subsidized cotton. We are waiting for a comprehensive plan to improve life in the city of Athens and the air we breathe, we await news on the forest registry. We are waiting for sustainable policies. But we are still waiting.

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