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20° Nicosia,
16 October, 2019
 
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The ‘public interest'

A proliferation of legislation and bureaucracy, and employees who say “no” to everything

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

Greece can really take off. The economy has already reached its lowest point and is now poised for a spectacular rebound. The country’s human capital is unlimited in all sectors and for the first time in a long time we have a government that understands the notion of entrepreneurship and wants to move dynamically in the field of investments.

The greatest enemy will be the Greek public sector and the interests that rally behind it to keep the country stagnant and the economy closed, as always. A proliferation of legislation and bureaucracy, and employees who say “no” to everything in the name of the “public interest,” stand as the biggest obstacles.

They are not easy to overcome. Greece’s lenders tried to address such issues through consecutive bailouts. Progress was made in some areas, but we failed miserably in others. Our creditors were faced with politicians who voted for the reforms and then undermined them to protect certain interests and trade unions.

The previous government of Alexis Tsipras tried to kickstart a few major stalled investments and to settle pending issues. However, it is striking that even though it had – theoretically – a large part of the state apparatus on its side, it failed in flagship projects. It managed to push through with some investments operating in a semi-European way based on micro-management and back-room dealing. In most cases, however, it sank into the quagmire of indifference, ideological obsessions and the complete inadequacy of some of its officials.

The new government needs some quick victories to reverse the climate and persuade foreign investors to risk their capital in this country. It will require a steadfast attitude, a lot of micro-management by the prime minister himself and also a person or people assisting, who know the legislation and can understand when the invocation of the public interest is honest and when it is simply an excuse for inertia or, worse, leverage being used by some interest group that does not want the pie to get any bigger. And, of course, these determined people better have a thorough understanding of what is happening in the “depths” of the Greek state.

It is a difficult mission, but since the bailouts didn’t work and the left-wing management style did not work, we have to try another way. We have no room for failure. Otherwise, we will end up muttering the fatalistic trope: “Come on, we’ve always been this way. We’ve been trying to build a proper state since independence and failed.” It’s a good excuse for those who want to hold onto the old messed-up Greece – so they can do what they want.

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