04 November 2009

And the prime minister is ...?

Dear George:

it has been already a month following your electoral victory and your inauguration as Greece's premier.  Since that time the identity of the Greek prime minister remains a mystery to the dwellers of the internet.  The website "primeminister.gr" contains absolutely no information about you.  Not even your name -- let alone a brief biographical note or a photograph.  In fact, the only name mentioned on that website is that of Yannis Panaretos',  a junior minister in your government.

We find it a bit odd that a month after the government transition, the official website for the Greek prime minister contains absolutely no information about, well, the prime minister.

Maybe the people who are responsible for the prime minister's website are designing an ultra-cool, highly-interactive, and substantial electronic presence for you.  No grandiose plans, however, can be an excuse for the complete lack of elementary information about the individual currently at the helm of the Greek government.

Don't you think that it's about time the Greek prime minister was introduced to the internet community via his official website?

29 October 2009

A lost opportunity

Dear George:

another year, another student parade, another third-worldly spectacle.  Why?

25 October 2009


Dear George,

We believe that the Greek government needs a chief information officer or a chief technology officer.  Or, better, a Chief ITC Officer. 

10 October 2009

The devil is in the detail

Dear George,

inviting Greek citizens to apply for senior positions in the Executive, is a momentous step towards transparency and meritocracy if it is done right.  Other bloggers have already pointed out flaws in the process (see for example: We Are Not Alone, Ιστολόγιον).  We couldn't agree more with their comments.

As Greece makes its first steps towards a transparent, accountable, participatory government we believe that it is important to draw the fine line between meritocracy and populism.  Opening up the application process to "all citizens" is a populist move.  Not all citizens are qualified for the high level positions of the executive.  A responsible government must provide specific information about its expectations for the senior appointments it expects to fill through the open application process.

Arguably the application process is self-selective.  This, however, does not absolve the government of its responsibility to inform all citizens about its meritocracy expectations and criteria.

We applaud the gesture toward transparency.  We remain skeptical about the forethought and preparation (or lack thereof) that led to a mediocre and vague website.

07 October 2009

The Ombudsman

Dear George,

inviting the Ombudsman to address the first Cabinet meeting of your new government was an inspired gesture but a risky one.  The Ombudsman's Office has done a great job recording and analyzing the deficiencies and failures of public administration in Greece.  That Office is often seeing as a pillar of justice, by citizens who felt their rights and their dignity crushed under the arrogance of the public administration machine.

At the same time we question the propriety of blurring the line between the Executive and a constitutionally independent authority such as the Ombudsman.  If δεοντολογία (ethics) is to be respected, as you directed your Cabinet, then the Ombudsman should have not been invited in the first place.

The first step to reforming public administration and civil services in Greece is to go through the annual reports of the Ombudsman and cure all the deficiencies identified therein.  It's worth the effort and it does not require Ombudsman Kaminis to appear before your Cabinet.

N.B.  After we published the commentary above, we became aware of an excellent article on the separation of Executive and Independent Authorities by the blogger e-lawyer.

06 October 2009

Continuing Education and Religious Affairs

Dear George,

We applaud restructuring the Greek cabinet into a contemporary flexible group.  The focus on the environment and on the protection of citizens, is much appreciated.  As is the introduction of deputy-ministers based in Northern Greece.  Maintaining, however, religious affairs as a ministry (no pun intended) was a disappointing choice.

Long have you been an ardent advocate for the separation of church and state.  This was your first chance to make a small, calculable, almost innocuous step into that direction.  You could have restructured religious affairs into a secretariat under the ministry for culture, but you did not.

The ministry of education and religious affairs got a new name that includes continuing education in its title.  Recognizing the importance of continuing education is commendable but hardly a reason to restructure an executive department.

The message to open minded, progressive, rationale thinkers is that church and state  in Greece remain very much entangled.   That a prime minister with such a strong mandate is still uncertain as to how to begin the disentanglement of two institutions that long had fed each others' corrupt and opaque dealings.

Such a lost opportunity.  Such a pity.

04 October 2009

Here we are

Dear George,

Congratulations on your election as Prime Minister of Greece. You have successfully campaigned against the incompetency and the corruption of the, now defeated conservative government. You are entering Greece's executive mansion during a very difficult period in the country's history. The challenges ahead of us appear insurmountable. The stakes are high and honestly, so are our expectations of you. It's the high expectations that have led a few of us to start this blog. Our hope is to provide you with honest, albeit caustic on occasions, feedback.

Let us set the record straight. Greek media fancy you as the country's Obama. They are wrong.  You are a modern politician with an affinity for technology and an appreciation for environmentally-friendly development, like Barack Obama, and that's a good thing for Greece.  But let's not pretend that you are another world leader.  It is downright disrespectful to Obama  that the Greek media suggest that you are his Greek equivalent when, in fact, you have more in common with his predecessor.

With that said, let's focus on the serious challenges Greece faces. This blog wishes you the best of success. We'll be here to praise your accomplishments, warn you of potential mistakes, and criticize mistakes that you were warned about. In doing so, we will be guided by common sense and our awareness of best practices.

The photograph of George Papandreou is courtesy of his website www.papandreou.gr.