Greek Exit from the Crisis—A Pressing and Much-Needed Public Service Reform
Greece is in a deep crisis; the worst in all of Europe and the worst experienced in 45 years. Greece is no stranger to crises, but most have been exogenous: the Second World War and the Cold War, for instance. Sadly, unlike these crises, the present one is home-made. The wounds that it has caused are largely self-inflicted. It is especially difficult to fathom the logic of strikes by public service unions—repeated, relentless and militant. They paralyzed the country, drove investors and tourists away and added to the burdens that the economy and the people have had to bear. These strikes, and some public servants’ attitudes in the face of the crisis itself, brought into sharp relief the serious capacity deficit in the Greek administrative system, which has been at the root of the problem the country is currently facing. This statement begs the question: how can that be? What, after 30 years of public service reform, presumed to modernize and help the country approximate the standards embedded in the Common European Administrative Space ? The paper will suggest that the reforms of the 1980s were only superficially reforms to improve the effectiveness and quality of the Service. Like parallel changes in higher education, the principal objective was harnessing officialdom, and as many voters as possible, to the chariot of PASOK—the political party established by Andreas Papandreou—which effectively governed the country for most of the period in question. The lesson from this experience may be none other, in fact, than clear convincing proof that partisan concerns and institution-building seldom make a good combination. For Greece, in light of the crisis, effective integration in the EU remains a daunting challenge. It calls for bold reforms, but these must be undertaken with institution-building, the country’s general interest, and long term needs in mind.
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