WILL THE SECURED E.U. CAPITAL OF €32 BILLION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREEK ECONOMY BE USED TO BEST ADVANTAGE THIS TIME?

The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily put a stop to the economic development of almost every country in the world. This stagnation has created many debts, and measures have to be taken to make up for the losses. The European Union, after difficult negotiations, has decided to make financial loans available to its member states. Most of these loans will not be paid back by the states that will receive them, in order to thus help close the growth gap that has been created. One of the most notable terms of these financial allocations is their absorption by each member state over a predetermined, relatively short, period of time. If funds are not spent within that strict time frame, non-absorbed funding will be withdrawn and redistributed to other member states that have exhausted their allocated funds. This strict condition brings to mind the phrase: “time is money”, first used by Benjamin Franklin in 1748.

   The question is whether the organisation of the Greek state, and especially those related to the design, planning and execution of public works, have the necessary capability to comply with the full and effective absorption of funding, according to the tightly defined terms set by the EU. Unfortunately, the answer to this question, based on our experience so far, is negative. However, this does not mean that, if new administrative and managerial approaches are implemented and if strict conditions are set in time at each stage of development, it is impossible to overcome this negativity. We will list below some of these conditions:

   1) At the top level, the governance of our country so far creates confidence in the intentions for change for the better. But intentions are not enough, if they are not accompanied by the right leaders who will implement them. These leaders must not only believe in these intentions, but also have the required managerial ability. Two actions taken so far give us hope: first, the preparation of the plan of compatibility with the conditions set by the Recovery Plan, which was submitted to and was approved by the Summit, and second, the selection of a Minister with recognised managerial ability, who will be responsible for the implementation of the projects.

   2) The next phase, i.e. the selection of projects to be implemented, has to be based objectively on real needs, so that the best future prospects for our country can be realised. The degree of achievement of the selected objectives will show in the coming years if this phase was successful. The technocratic staff that will be selected to draw up coherent and realistic programs of projects, in addition to the necessary technical knowledge, should also steadfastly believe in the goals set by the legislative and executive authorities.

   3) It seems that the next stages, i.e., the many phases of completion of several small and large projects, will be met with the big obstacles that have been plaguing the Greek public administration for a long time. These obstacles (parasitism, private interest transactions, distancing from the common public good and much more) have been recorded many times, but so far have only been addressed to a very limited extent. In general, obstacles of this kind that prevail in our country are very difficult to deal with effectively through the usual ways that have been attempted so far. An intelligent plan for dealing with these kinds of obstacles was designed in the mid-2000s in regards to major highway construction projects. Unfortunately it has yielded limited results due to the ensuing ten-year economic crisis and also due to the change in mentality of the following administration. This approach was reflected in the relatively transparent terms of the tender and the contracts that followed. Quality construction was ensured through the provision for long-term maintenance by the manufacturer at no additional public expense, but mainly through the creation of competing interests between contractors and lenders.

   4) It has been established, for several years now, that the effective treatment of the entrenched unhealthy conditions in the public administration can only happen through radical institutional reforms. The incompatibility between being a Member of Parliament and a Minister and the introduction of an electoral system similar to the one in Germany (single-member constituencies for the election of half of the Members and a list for the other half) could be two of the most substantial initial reforms. Such changes, which separate the legislative from the executive power, lead to the democratisation of the functioning of the parties, link MP’s more closely to their constituencies, and can serve as a form of policy-modelling with a view to assimilating and operating beneficially in the overall political community.

   The average citizen, the one who suffers from the ills of the above-mentioned public administration, remembers the huge funding provided to our country in the forty years since its accession to the European Union and can, without making detailed calculations, see the disproportionately small beneficial effects on the economy, society and the natural environment. For this reason, he/she wishes and hopes that this new, perhaps last, opportunity will bring fruit.    We, the people of Mani, hope that many of our compatriots, who hold high-level positions at all levels of the state administration and regional self-government, will not forget their place of origin and, finally, will make sure that Mani will get its share of the projects that is entitled to from this latest financial package

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