Thursday, December 6, 2012

Coalition settles key public sector posts!

What a wonderful article in the Ekathimerini describing how the government coalition has agreed on the candidates who will be appointed to management positions at public sector companies. Get this priceless sentence: "The choices reflect not only the political balance in the coalition but also are in keeping with the established practice of appointing former parliamentary candidates, MPs and ministers".

I am reminded of the times of the Great Coalition in Austria where the two establishment parties had agreed amongst each other, in writing!, to distribute all management positions in the public sector according to the results of the last election. And the managers then followed this very same principle in their own personnel policies. 

The following saying became a phrase-of-the-day: "You need 3 people for every position in a public sector company: one Black (Conservative Party), one Red (Socialist Party) and one who does the job!"

In the late 1980s, Austria's public sector began crashing under its own weight resulting in major bankrupties and huge losses for tax payers. Most of the companies were subsequently privatized and the majority became extremely successful. Voest, the steel company, was the most prominent example. Chancellor Kreisky's unforgettable announcement to Voest-workers had been: "A few billion more debt doesn't nearly cause me as many sleepless nights as a thousand new unemployed would!" Well, not too long thereafter, Kreisky could worry about both - debt and unemployed.

Incidentally, Voest is today one of Europe's most efficient steel companies.


  1. Up to their old tricks: the 'bubble' world of the old parties has yet to pop.

  2. Austria could still afford these practices, but Greece no longer.

  3. The difference is simple but lethal: Kreisky's policies in Austria can be described an aberration or experiment or just a mistake. In Greece this unwillingness to accept capitalism is extremely deeply entrenched. So removing a party or a person is not relevant. The next lot (whatever it might be) will automatically behave the same. It requires something of a Copernican revolution in the Greek society to accept a european style economy. This is why evaluating, reassigning and firing civil servants and privatizing everything in sight is so important. It attacks the heart of the political power of the old system. Hopefully, when SYRIZA is forced to U-turn, the lack of political alternatives will force through the changes necessary.

  4. Continuing from the above: the last few days there is a heated discussion about shop opening on Sundays and about the civil servants and municipal employees that are subject to moving to new posts (διαθεσιμότητα). I have never heard the word efficiency (of any kind) at all from anybody. It just never enters the discussion. I hear historical, moral and philosophical arguments, but never the words efficiency (αποδοτικότητα) or productivity (παραγωγiκότητα). This is a political and social problem and it needs to be addressed before anything else.

    1. Don't get too charged up. We have the same discussions in Austria. You'd be surprised how similar Austria and Greece are (only that Austria has a never-tiring, successful private sector which continues to generate the wealth which the politicians spread around like there was no tomorrow).

  5. Yes. Austria has some quite stunning political bribery scandals going on at the moment.

    And, of course, vetoing a common EU position on data sharing for tax (together with luxembourg).

    Now that would really have helped Greece. But the banking lobby is pretty strong.

    Klaus is correct, there are plenty of similarities between Greece and Austria. That, in fact, was one of the factors that drove the rise of Haider.

    But of course, he was even more corrupt than the "establishment" parties.

    Good post. And no, I don't intend going in for "austrian-bashing" as a career. Public Governance is improving there, slowly, under austrian control

    1. I had a little exchange with Yanis Varoufakis on a very important part of the 'Austrian experience'. Below is his article. I made two comments to it on December 12; one at 10.53 and the other one at 00.24. The latter refers also to Jörg Haider.

      And here is an article which I wrote some time ago on Austria versus Greece.