Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Readers based in Greece may have noticed a great deal of inane talk recently about the need for a "co-ordinator" at the heart of the Prime Minister's office - essentially a Deputy Prime Minister in name or otherwise, based in some kind of equivalent of the UK's Cabinet Office, or the German Kanzleramt, to enforce joint-up policymaking and basically knock heads together when our ministers aren't getting with the programme. A recent survey was commissioned to ask, among other things, whether citizens feel there is a lack of co-ordination within government. 70% of the population said yes.

Now I wouldn't read too much into this. "Co-ordination" is one of those nothing-words in common Greek parlance (like "analytical", "prospect", "dynamic", "comprehensive" etc) whose purpose regardless of etymology is to convey a general sentiment rather than a judgment of facts. In this case, the call for better co-ordination basically means the government ought to do a better job. Yawn.

The idea originated back in February, when Yorgo put together a Committee (as he does) to consider the modernisation of the functioning of Government. Its members were:

The Committee has now reported and judging from Prof. Featherstone's comments, its recommendations are likely to be accepted whosale. Ironically for an insolvent country, (but predictably for a committee of socialists) they involve hiring way more people into the Prime Minister's Office, which Featherstone says is one of the smallest in Europe, (boo-hoo) so that it can become a fully subsidised Think Tank with all the trimmings and become a serious agent in policymaking.

This will create a new lynchpin position, a right-hand man for the PM, an appointment guaranteed to whip Greek politics into a frenzy. This is already underway. Will successive Greek PMs ever trust anyone with this position? Past practice has been to give ambitious ministers 'electric chair' appointments like the Ministry for Education and Religious Affairs. And at any rate, is the solution to our problems really the Chancellor-ification of Yorgo and the Mandelson-ification of one of his lackeys? Will anyone be reassured by an office that gives the PM even more people to hide behind? Does it not run the risk of directly plugging the PM into tribal politics - a task formerly delegated to more junior politicians?

Sod this, Feathestone; you can keep your philosopher-King model. The machinery of government is secondary. Liberalise the labour market, root out the dead tendrils of the state, tax appropriately and cut red tape, scrap military service, introduce university fees and proper admissions; give the Greek people their drive and dignity back. Then they will be able and motivated to hold you to account accordingly.

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