Merry Christmas Mr. Papadimos.
We, John and Maria Papadopoulos have a wish list. It is probably like that of most Greeks.
It begins with “turn the tables on them and expose their motives”.
On November 11th, a short six weeks ago, we were so very happy that you were taking the helm. We felt we were in good hands. A recent poll, you probably know it, has shown that in just one month people are beginning to doubt that you can make the change, that you can turn the ship around. Why? Very likely because people expected too much from you and you alone can not bring the change. Besides, you were focused on what are the country’s top priorities, so you could not possibly deliver all what people expected of you, not in this short period, but you could have asserted your power and authority, you have both and people wander why you have not.
We wondered why you had accepted to merely replace Papandreou and do what you had to do with the same wrong people, basically the PASOK Hodgepodge enriched with some characters from the ND and the LAOS herds. What you head is a Government in name only. Speaking of names why did you not insist that all three parties backing your Government view and refer to it as a service Government.
Your backers are carrying on as opposition to your Government, ND in particular. Why do you accept it? The PASOK ministers are busy maneuvering for the coming elections, few of them jockeying to succeed GP, reluctantly doing in their spare time what they are supposed to do and the ND ministers methodically doing as little as possible. Can a Government composed of reluctant knuckleheads campaigning for reelection with no care for their “job” be effective? They are all undermining your position. They want this Government to fail, Samaras now, to then win an election and “save” Greece (he claims), Papandreou by June, so he can have the time to maneuver for reelection to the Chairmanship of Socialist International and to maintain the presidency of PASOK. Under these restraints what can you, therefore, accomplish?
Mr. Papadimos, it would be great if you address the Nation on New Year’s day and tell it like it is. Inform the people. Speak truthfully. Tell the Nation that the reduction of the deficit is of vital importance. The reduction can not come about only from taxes that hurt low incomes the most. It must come from a substantial reduction in the size of the public sector as a whole and a very substantial increase of the effectiveness of the “state” which must be re-founded to become lean and dynamic, supportive to society and to business, which in turn will generate incomes and from them state revenues with which to, also, pay down the country’s debt. If the country defaults and goes bankrupt it will be reduced to a third world status, out of the EC and naturally out of the Eurozone, impoverished and unable to finance even basic needs and materials, in short, default is catastrophy.
Can those who brought the country to this state, over the last 37 years, do what needs be done? Put the question to the minds of the people and let them ponder. Oh and do remind them that in 2004 some character was elected to the office of the Prime Minister on the promise that he will “re-found” the state.
Let the Nation know that two years ago the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) after studying the endemic problems of the Greek State Mechanism concluded that it is “behind times”, inefficient, unmotivated, with a culture of processing, not initiating, unable to plan and to assess performance, unable to support any kind of endeavor. OECD stressed the fact that this must change at once because time is against the country. Development funds are available from the EU but the Greek state mechanism requires 300 days to assess a project, 90 days to integrate it to a program, 280 days to sign the contract of execution and 200 days to effect payment. The problem is not merely one of bureaucracy, it is coupled with corruption and it must be addressed immediately if Greece is to survive.
No one will doubt these words.
To survive in the Eurozone Greece must develop its Economy, investments are therefore of paramount importance.
The previous Government instituted a “fast track” process to speed up the materialization of investments, however ignoring an essential fact which is the existence of disincentives that dissuade investors and render all investment incentives useless. Compared to other countries Greece taxes heavily private enterprise and, which is worse, the taxation system keeps changing. Investors want to know the taxation system is there for the conceivable future, not just for now.
For every project hundreds (at times thousands) of signatures are necessary. This not only delays the project, but invariably increases the cost, because signatures are exchanged with material benefits. Bureaucracy nurtures Corruption.
Furthermore, local authorities, for reasons of their own, can cancel the materialization of a project and so can labor unions, or even courts of justice, which tend to view certain cases with a narrow focus and can take years to render judgment.
Remind the Nation that labor costs in Greece are high rendering Greek production uncompetitive. Direct wage negotiations between employers and individual employees must be allowed to thus increase employment by permitting employers to reduce, where needed, wages, something presently impossible and of counterinfluence to the creation of jobs, increased production, increased national income and government revenues.
People must be made aware of reality, so go on and tell them that the politicians and the labor unions have done their best to make Greek production uncompetitive, which in itself is an affront to common sense.
Tell the Nation that the Unions should have collaborated with employers to maintain competitive the Greek productivity by offering restraint in their demands in exchange for employers’ investments in equipment which increases the output of labor and through this productivity, the benefit of which could then enable employers to pay higher wages. For example German workers earn more than their Greek counterparts because German employers have invested in technology enabling one to produce more with the same effort. To drive the point home use an example. Tell your audience, the Nation, that a tailor can accomplish more - and better - with the help of a sewing machine, than with only his hands. This is why Greek workers must be enabled by increased investments in equipment.
Explain, Mr. Papadimos, in very clear terms, the need to bring about a radical transformation of the economy, from one of services and commerce to one focused on production and that includes production of energy, wind and solar, to not only reduce oil consumption, with all the ensuing benefits, but to, also, e x p o r t. To encourage productive investments urgent reforms must be made, to do away with all the disincentives to investments. This requires consensus and societal support. It behooves the Greeks, therefore, to unite to a national effort, setting aside party interests.
Tell the Nation, Mr. Papadimos, that you need a “lean and mean” team of technocrats to bring about the necessary reforms, instead of taxing individual incomes more than they have already been taxed and that only such a team can reduce the money-eating, progress impeding public sector, a prerequisite to the tax relief of the lower incomes.
Tell the Nation that the Papandreou Government lied claiming that the troika had asked for the cuts in incomes and benefits. The Nation should know that because Papandreou and his cohorts did not want to reduce their electoral base, the public sector, they set about reducing public expenditures by reducing incomes and benefits. Self interest and incompetence were the culprits, not the troika. They lied and lied and lied. They never explained that the National debt was a function of myopic management of the Economy, for which PASOK and ND were both guilty, a “sin” which is now the cause of the present misery.
The country, if the agreements will hold, will receive tens of billions. The two parties would like to “manage” their disposal. The two parties are the ones that have created 439 departments, on average, in the ministries, with about 20% of the ministerial employees being “managers”, managing what? ?
In the last 15 years 17000 new laws were created, in addition to a number of Presidential decrees and Ministerial decisions for changes of competence-responsibility. They created a useless monster to take care of their voters. Are these the people who can transform the country? Put the question to the Nation.
State, Mr. Papadimos, that only a Government of Technocrats, indifferent to the so called “political cost”, with no political aspirations, operating with only one thing in mind, the good of the country, can do all what should be done to wipe out the deficit and create surpluses without hurting the people more than has already been the case.
Rome was not built in a night. Such a turn around requires not only devotion to the cause but also t i m e. Tell the Nation that you intend to reform your Government, next week and that this new Government needs time and will therefore stay until 2013, when the term of the PASOK electoral mandate expires and do tell the Nation the truth … our Eurozone partners are dismayed with the state of the political affairs of Greece and worry that a new Government, from the same tried and failed parties, will not do (can not do) what it should and this means that the funds already given and those to be given will be wasted and they will never get them back. In plain language they doubt the ability of present day politicians to properly govern.
This is why you will create a new Government, of your choice, to govern until the constitution mandates new elections, the fall of 2013.
Of course the parties will raise hell, but the people will be on your side.
Need we point out, Mr. Papadimos, that recent polls show that if elections were held, now, the Left and extreme left parties would gain about one third of the vote? You know the cause of it … a n g e r. People are angry because they are hurting. It is incumbent on you to bring the Nation to your side, to thus face the politicos who oppose you and to rally the Nation to the cause of reconstruction of institutions and of the Economy. You know what to do. Begin by communicating, talking to the Nation, explain plans and report on progress. You are the only hope this country has.
Merry Christmas Mr. Papadimos.