Sunday, 11 July 2010


I am not the biggest fan of G-PAP and our current Government but I have to give them their dues on occasion. 

The decision to put all public consultations online was brave and, if followed up properly by policymakers, could change the country for the better.

At the very least, it will provide some badly needed LOLs.

The Government is currently consulting on the winding down of a number of quangos and other useless public organisations in a bid to save money and sanity. The consultation page (in Greek only, I'm afraid) can be found here.

As one might have predicted, it has prompted a torrent of self-serving comments from people employed in, supplying or otherwise benefiting from the entities being considered for closure. My personal favourite (and a heavily defended one at that) is the National Milk Committee. The problem with the NMC is that, the more they try to defend themselves through they Chairman, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves:
“How much does the NMC cost the State?
The NMC does not at this time receive a single Euro from the State. It carries out its work, whose significant is universally acknowledged, thanks to the funding it receives from the Hellenic Dairy and Meat Association, which in turn is funded entirely out of the money of Greek milk producers and manufacturers of dairy products in return for services rendered. It should be noted that, during the first 25 years of its operation it had no regular funding and was able to operate thanks in main to the contributions of the Greek dairy industry and other dairy stakeholders.”

Sadly, it is hard to corroborate this as the NMC does not feel any obligation to publish any financial information in Greek or English. However, it does appear suspect in light of what is mentioned under the “funding” tab of the NMC’s own website:

“Until 2004, the NMC operated with no steady funding. […] Over the last few years, some of its more significant  function were funded by the Hellenic Dairy and Meat Association, the association of Greek Dairy Manufacturers and the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food to whom we express our gratitude.”
 “In 2004, Presidential Decree no. 89, established an annual €200.000 grant to the NMC, levied from the Hellenic Dairy and Meat Association.”

Let us forget for a moment the direct funding from the Ministry and focus on the HDMA money. It is clear that, contrary to the NMC's claim, this is not quite a quid-pro-quo model of funding – the NMC receives this money regardless of what services it has rendered. And it has a claim on this money by presidential decree – hardly a model of free enterprise. But even if the HDMA were paying out of genuine interest, this would also be problematic because they are not in fact spending “the money of Greek milk producers and manufacturers of dairy products in return for services rendered .” A look at the website of the august HDMA suggests where its own funding, of which it so generously gives to the NMC, comes from in the first place:

“The HDMA is not funded out of the State budget. Its revenues are derived from a 0.75% levy on domestically sourced milk, a 0.5% levy on foreign-sourced milk, and a 0.2% levy on domestically and foreign-sourced meat.”

In my village, this is called a tax. But I’m getting ahead of myself – back to the NMC for now:

“Since its establishment, the NMC has been housed free of charge in premises granted by the Senate of the Athens Horticultural University. This grant essentially allowed it to exist through its first 25 years of operation, during which time it had no steady source of income.”

Finally, as the NMC explains, its Chair and Vice-Chair are both University Professors, i.e. civil servants, whose wages, travel costs and expenses are paid out of the state budget. This last point is important because the NMC is based in Athens but the HDMA is based in Thessaloniki – an 8-hr drive apart. The other three Board members are all high-ranking industry association people.

That aside, why do we have an NMC? Why can’t the HDMA build its own resource? Because to have an NMC ties in nicely with the structures of the International Dairy Federation, of which the NMC is a member. The IDF’s job is, once one has read through the fluffy language, to act as chief self-regulator and lobbyist for the dairy sector.

From the above it is clear that the NMC is typical of the culture of the Greek quangocracy. Here they are, an organisation that receives EUR200,000 per annum levied by state decree, is housed free of charge in public property for a quarter-century, occupies the time of well-paid civil servants and taps into the state budget to pay for their travelling costs. Despite all of this they STILL DON’T REALISE THEY ARE BEING SUBSIDISED BY THE STATE.

That’s just not good enough. G-PAP has my vote on this one – make them, and everyone else like them, squeal!

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