Where are the decision makers?

They turned up without having done their homework. They spent just a few minutes preparing for their participation in talks on an issue that most people view as one of the most important for the country at the present time. They were true to form. They spent their time in boring verbal duels and admired themselves for their clever quips against their opponents. They disagreed, let off some steam and eventually left. Most had already departed before the session was over because Olympiakos was playing. But they all (New Democracy, PASOK and LAOS) left Parliament a little richer, to the tune of 300 euros each. This is how much (my colleagues covering Parliament told me) deputies are paid for participating in a special committee session. The only participant to come prepared was the finance and economy minister. And the only ones who will miss out on the stipend of 1,200 euros (if four sessions are held) are the deputies of the Communist Party and of the Coalition of the Radical Left. This is how things stood in Parliament during the first session of the Standing Committee on Economic and Social Affairs addressing social security reform last Wednesday. To say the least, it paints a disappointing picture and for this reason alone is worth airing live on prime-time television so that society can see how its elected officials are tackling the social security issue. These parliamentary committees were proposed as the ideal forum in which to hold crucial dialogue. What they have shown is that the problem does not lie in the venue or the process. The problem is that no one seems to care enough unless the committee chairman, Nikos Analytis, starts stirring things up with his statements. The dialogue on this crucial issue is being turned into a parody. Tomorrow’s session, the third, which is supposed to deal with the unification of social security funds (proposed in 2002) is expected to unfold without any surprises, and this is not because the decisions have already been made or because someone will come up with some new liberal proposal. It is simply because none of the participants intends to adopt any serious initiatives. If the umbrella union organization GSEE wanted to offer a real service to the country’s workers, it would hold its protests outside Parliament and demand that the problems of the social security system be taken seriously. These problems are not actuarial or future ones. They are apparent on a daily basis. The social security system is not threatened by tough measures but by an absence of measures.