How should the Greek economy be reformed?

Greece crisis: The wrath of the Reformed


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Officials without a job: The post haggling has gotten worse, says Yorgos Tsiampalis

"Minimum wage, pension bonus - so shortly before the elections these are the signals that there is money in circulation again, we already know that," says Yorgos Tsiampalis, 57. Nothing has gotten better, thinks the civil servant, who is actually called differently, but would rather not read his name in the newspaper. "With the parties, the clientele system," he says, "everyone dance tango, the Greek citizens and also the European partners." The crisis only exacerbated existing problems, "there is no just money distribution mechanism".

Yorgos Tsiampalis works in the Ministry of Administration in central Athens. At the height of the crisis tens of thousands demonstrated against austerity not far from there, young people threw incendiary devices, a pensioner shot himself in the middle of the square and left behind a heartbreaking manifesto. The retired pharmacist wrote that he refused to look for food in the garbage and did not want to pass his debts on to his children.

Tsiampalis ’monthly salary has shrunk in recent years, by 30 percent to 1303.93 euros. He doesn't expect that to change anytime soon: Greek austerity policies will run until 2060. "Then I'll be 98 years old," says Tsiampalis.

In 1997, Tsiampalis became a civil servant under the Pasok government, the party that first came to power in 1981. They raised an army of officials until the public sector made up a large part of the Greek economy. A culture of state consumption on credit emerged, promoted by those who benefited from it, i.e. politicians, the wealthy, bankers - a network of relationships of smaller and larger favors. In the 2015 election, Prime Minister Tsipras styled himself as a figurehead in the fight against this clientelism. Today his cousin Jorgos Tsipras works as an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His wife works for the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Cabinet ministers have paid rent subsidies even though they own real estate.

The system of the metakliti has even become more far-reaching, says Yorgos Tsiampalis. This refers to officials around the ministers who have no real administrative task. In addition to the metakliti there are also those symvasiouchos, Employees employed on a contract basis who further strengthen the large number of civil servants. What is it used for? The economist George Bitros of the Athens University of Economics takes refuge in sarcasm: "The ministers will tell you all kinds of anecdotes. Urgent tree care in the spring or whatever." Bitros has been researching the institutions of his country for a long time, inefficient administration is one of his main topics: While around 11 percent of the workforce in Germany is employed in the public sector, in Greece it is over 20 percent, says Bitros. "I am disappointed that the experts from the EU and the IMF who worked out the austerity programs looked the other way." That serves neither the interests of Greece nor the mandates of their organizations. The old clientele system survived the crisis years.

Less money for more work? Doctors like to take donations from their patients

The doctor Alexandros Sarantopoulos, 44, has been working in the Greek health system for 13 years. His workplace is the University Hospital in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. With more than 2000 beds, it is one of the largest hospitals in the country.

For him, the crisis means: there is more work for less money. "I used to receive a transfer of 2,000 euros, today it's around 1,200," says Sarantopoulos. In his hospital, a doctor now looks after an average of 60 patients a day. Before the crisis, there were already many at 40. According to a study by the Association of Workers in Public Hospitals, no investment has been made in new equipment for eight years. Even after Greece left the European bailout fund, the need to save is still there. There are too few CT scanners, says Sarantopoulos, which leads to long waiting lists. Patients fought for the coveted appointments.