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Interior Minister Tasos Yiannitsis: Our country is not just inefficient, it has failed

04 April 2012 / 15:04:42  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

"It would be an irony to speak just about inefficiency. The fact is that the government, which has brought us into the present situation, failed," said Greek Interior Minister Tasos Yiannitsis and emphasized the slow pace of reforms in the country.

The Minister made the brave statement during a public debate on "Towards a more efficient State", organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, a Citizen’s Movement, Transparency International Greece and the consulting agency Kantor.

He stressed the negative way in which organized circles operate in their own favour and against the public interest. "A political party or a personal interest probably lies behind a flawed and ineffective state intervention in terms of public interest," he said.

"We can create conditions of competition through a combination of reforms such as the liberalization of transport services, reduction of bureaucratic costs and corruption, by improving the current infrastructure, reducing the cost of port services, etc. But at the same time, we refuse to liberalize tank transportation, rationalize the value of the National Electricity Company, fight bureaucracy and corruption. Thus, pressure falls with mathematical precision on the only thing that remains. I.e., on wages."

Tasos Yiannitsis did not spare his criticism for politicians who often ignore the consequences of their policies in order to obtain temporary political gain. "An irresponsible fiscal policy, which is immediately producing new income, will lead to inflation after several years, to a declining competitiveness and it affects employment negatively."
"We have created a country that works for itself. Bureaucracy and its structures are created precisely to enable this system to operate. That is why it opposes the evaluation system. And such a system should be introduced everywhere and in all processes." The Minister ended his speech with the finding that the only obstacle to changes is the system ruling the government.

Panagiotis Karkatsoulis, named "civil servant of the year" in Europe and lecturer at the National School of Government, presented data on the government sector. In times of severe financial crisis and while making efforts to reduce government spending, Greece has 15 ministers, 30 deputy ministers, 78 general and special secretaries, 1200 counsellors and  22,437 law-officers of public and private law and public companies. Departments of 15 ministries are housed in a total of 604 buildings, many of which are rented. At the same time, other state-owned buildings are deserted. "Sometimes I wonder why dismissals should affect the middle and lower levels of the government hierarchy and why not dismiss the assistants appointed by ministers, many of whom lack specific skills, but certainly receive higher wages. In the state apparatus, there are people who can do the job perfectly. I cannot explain why ministers should constantly choose their advisers, unless it means that they do not trust the administration. I hope this is not the case."

He said that the majority of the Greek civil servants "are in a very difficult situation because they are aged between 50-60 years. It is hard for them to respond to modern methods of work and if fired, it will be extremely difficult for them to find another job." According to Panagiotis Karakatsoulis, these people are less educated and this makes the utilization of innovation even more difficult. Therefore, his opinion is that Greece needs reforms similar to the "Big Bang".

The Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou confirmed the data submitted by Panagiotis Karkatsoulis and indicated that effective changes require supporting the middle class civil servants. Her experience shows that this is the way to improve services to citizens and to reduce petty corruption, which continues to rule.

Ambassador of Australia in Athens Jenny Bloomfield, who is of Greek origin, shared the experience in her country. Profound changes and the elimination of all types of state intervention in the sectors of economy occurred there in the 1980s. After several difficult years, Australia has managed to find its way and is now one of the most competitive countries in the world. The Ambassador explained that the country is headed by the government which is the central authority. Various departments and committees have specific powers and deal with strictly regulated matters, but do not exercise executive power.

"This is what we aim to do in Greece," said the head of the European Union Action Group in the country Zorzeta Lali. "In Greece there exists what we call the Mexican army in Brussels. It has only generals and no soldiers. As we all know, regular soldiers are those who bear the brunt of the war."

She said that the Action Group has developed specific plans to reform the government system. "Only the government should adopt the decisions. The court should be the sole authority to determine the budgets of each ministry. Many of the services, which are just existing and not performing any activity, should be closed." The Greek woman from Brussels, as local media call her, said that the deep reforms already underway are the only way for the Greek economy to get back on its feet.


Tags: PoliticsReformsEfficiency of stateTasos YiannitsisInterestsState government
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