Self-criticism is not enough

The prime minister’s statement that he accepts some of the blame for the Vatopedi land swap scandal was a bold gesture that enhanced his moral standing and at the same time strengthened confidence among voters who appreciate leaders who acknowledge their mistakes. However, Costas Karamanlis’s words will mean little if he does not take concrete measures to bridge the gap between himself, the ministers and the people. For there is no other way to learn what is going on in society. Sure, the public was excited to hear the premier’s self-critical comments. But, at the same time, his confession that he had an unclear picture of the scandal for nearly three months must have caused voters deep concern. Naturally, many are expressing skepticism over the prime minister’s understanding of the economic crisis. After all, he has implemented a tax-based income policy and increased budget spending when the economic crisis is calling for the opposite measures. And what about the health sector? A former minister was telling me the other day that if the patients and their relatives currently lining up outside Social Security Foundation (IKA) clinics took to the streets, the youth protests would look like festive parades. And let’s not get started on the education sector… I have repeatedly stated since 2005 that New Democracy’s problem is lax management, meaning the lack of central control and coordination. I have often contrasted this with the style of the late Constantine Karamanlis, who used to make decisions after consulting not only with ministers but also with general directors, independent experts and others. He was backed by an entire army of aides and he could always choose the best of many proposals. The current premier, on the other hand, only has contact with a maximum of five ministers, while former government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos would brief him on the others. All that has to change. But no government reshuffle will be enough unless the Cabinet is run on the basis of a specific program and a clear time frame.

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