True to habit Yiannis spent a few hours reading the Sunday papers. It left him with a sense of frustration. He had read about a public sector agency that had no idea what an IBAN received cash payment was and would not accept it (at a time when the Government is hurting for money). He had read that people with only 15 years of work were getting the same pension as those with 23. He had read about nepotism in Universities. He had read how the once thriving Ship-repair zone had priced itself (with constant wage increases) almost out of business, relying on the quality of its work (now matched by other neighbors). He had read how the Government is going about to reduce the deficit with half measures taken by ministers who do not believe in what they are doing. To abolish the myriad regulations on employment and the minimum wage standards (which will encourage employers to hire as it happened in other countries) is so un-socialistic, the ministers fret at the idea, but have no alternative to propose, so they sort of liberalize the legal framework concerning employment. If Greece was not in the Eurozone it would have been forced to devalue the drachma, as it has done on more than one occasion ( Greek politicians never learn) to thus make Greece competitive. Now, in the Eurozone, it can not but bring down costs with an “internal” devaluation, which will bring Government and the Unions it has endeared all these years to a collision.Unthinkable.
Yiannis read why the Government had to greatly reduce the deficit but it had run out of options. It had to greatly reduce the number of public employees, curtail the costs of Local Government and the outrageously excessive remuneration of public corporations personnel. It had to abolish a great number of useless public entities, reduce the cost of health by making everybody involved accountable. Worse of all the Government now has to open the closed professions and, in flagrant violation of its socialist principles, to create a business friendly environment. Yiannis chuckled at the thought. How can this Government permit employers and employees to decide on a thorny issue like pay. If the Government does not meddle in every aspect of this issue employees will not be assured of “buying power” (but they would be assured of unemployment in a country whose wage levels have made it uncompetitive) Yiannis thought. If only the Government could understand that the best protection for employees is the connection of wages to the productivity and profitability of their employer … as these go up so do their wages. Yiannis felt frustrated at the thought that the Government is compelled to think out of its socialist box … so far so bad. Business needs complete abolition of red tape to make the establishment of a new business easy (now it faces a hostile environment) support for the country’s export endeavor, support for the small and medium size companies (they provide more than 80% of employment in the private sector of the economy) bank financing and a stable tax system. Yiannis wandered if this Government can bring itself to doing it, if it can put together a development plan for the economy with the collaboration of the private sector, if it can create a consensus for the measures and the immediate action that should be taken, if it can mobilize the public sector to a national effort. What we need in effect is a social contract, Yiannis thought, one that would do away with entrenched mentalities and myths like minimum effort maximum results. The country needs to gain confidence in itself and confidence in its Government, but who is there to inspire it, Yiannis thought. The head of the Government soon after he was sworn to office took off to attend the Socialist International forum in some exotic place. Yes, he is the President of Socialist International but he inherited the premiership of a country on the verge of bankruptcy. No mater. His priority is to build his international profile (perhaps he covets the job of the secretary general of the United Nations) and he is making progress, on that. Recently he was honored in Germany for his sincerity (?) and according to the American Foreign Policy magazine he is one of the WORLD’s ! 100 most influential men (!) that makes Yiannis wander, as much as why does the PM spend most of his time abroad, does not stoop to come to grips with the country’s menacing problems, to coordinate his ministers. Does not this defeat his effort? No wonder the country’s performance puts at risk the continuation of its support from the IMF and the EU, but there is no award for lack of leadership. As for the opposition, it is old fashioned politics as usual, for the lead party and irresponsible talk and behavior, for the other small parties who have no alternatives to offer. Feeling very despondent Yiannis snugged in his armchair began wandering and wandering …
Yiannis wandered why not change everything? Why not have a new Constitution? One that obliges the country to live within its means by rendering unconstitutional a deficit in the budget and mandatory the payment in full of the country’s liabilities, permitting only the prolongation of payments by up to a maximum of ten years, with payment of the interest these carry dully payable in full until the date of repayment and this stipulation to be valid only and exclusively for its current liabilities, with all new liabilities assumed to be paid in full on the date of their maturity. This would appease the markets to a considerable extent and prevent the country from slipping again to unserviceable debt.
In a new constitution members of parliament and ministers should not enjoy the legal immunity they now do and should be held legally accountable for as long as the law provides for all citizens.
To ensure cost-efficiency everywhere the Government should not be permitted to pay a penny unless the expenditure has been fully justified. Business consultants can be called in to the state mechanism to install systems to ensure the maximization of benefit from every penny spent.
The new constitution can mandate that those in charge of the country’s fortunes are knowledgeable and totally indifferent to what is referred as political cost, the mere mention of which petrifies the politicians whose sole profession is politics, a financially rewarding one, Yiannis thought. Those in charge should be technocrats serving a five year term only and not eligible for another term before a lapse of ten years and accountable for their actions as per the provisions of the law for all citizens. The minister in charge of the treasury in particular should be a fully qualified and proven CFO from the business community who will impose and maintain the financial discipline of the private sector of the economy and of course provide Greece with an effective Tax collection system.
A Government of technocrats, Yiannis thought, can instill a sense of purpose, provide information, a vision to the nation by explaining how it got to this situation, what it takes to get out of it, when and how and what the result of this national effort will bring. The existing political parties can not do this because they would have to confess their “sins” and expose their lack of competence and vision. By providing this sorely needed sense of direction the technocrats will have the enthusiastic support of citizens who will volunteer for all kinds of chores, thus helping the country save money that can be spent to comfort the unprivileged.
Technocrats can bring close Universities and business, explain in realistic terms to the rebellious youth the benefits, to them, from the restructuring of the entire educational system and the marriage of research to business and thus gain the necessary change of attitude with which Greek Universities can upgrade their performance.
The technocrats, for all intents and purposes “ministers” with one of them acting as “primus inter pares” should be accountable to the Parliament … the people.
This thought made Yiannis wander why does Greece require a Parliament with its own TV station? How many watch it? What does it offer that all the other TV stations of Greece do not? What is the purpose that justifies the expense of millions of Euros, especially in these fiscally hard times? Why should Greece with eleven million people have a Parliament consisting of 300 members when the UK with sixty-two million has a Parliament of 650 plus a number of Lords in the Upper House and the USA of more than three hundred million have a congress of 436 Representatives plus 100 Senators. By Greek counts the UK should have about 1675 in the House of Commons alone and the USA a Congress of nearly 8300! Why could not we have a Parliament of 120 max 150 members? but politics is a lucrative profession in Greece, Yiannis thought. A smaller Parliament mandating the attendance of all, daily, without separate committees (with extra pay) for separate maters, one that convenes in its entirety to discuss the state of affairs , debate on maters of national interest and oversee the technocrat-ministers, who, on a weekly basis should come to inform and recommend policies and tactics for the Parliament to approve or not would serve the country well, Yiannis thought. The Parliament could have the right to interfere in the work of this technocratic Government only after it justifies this action with a full explanation to all the media for everyone to know.
Then it occurred to Yiannis that such a new constitution requires a new Parliament to approve it and there is not a whisper of a chance that present day politicians would do this. An obvious impasse, from which there is no way out. That put an end to Yiannis’ wanderings.