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Monday, October 19, 2015

SRSS - The New "EU Task Force For Greece"

The history of the EU Task Force for Greece (TFGR) is a rather sad story, in my opinion. When established in October 2011, its lofty objective was stated to be "a resource at the disposal of the Greek authorities as they seek to build a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterized by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos." What a wonderful objective!

I had always likened the Greece/TFGR relationship to a large corporation which gets into serious financial trouble due to complete mismanagement and organizational/structural chaos. Before the corporation goes out of business, it is offered virtually unlimited support from various consulting firms in order to facilitate a complete restructuring and a return to successful operations. And I would have thought that the management and the owners of that corporation would jump of joy and immediately draw on all the resources offered to them.

I never got the impression that Greece jumped of joy and immediately drew on all the resources offered by the TFGR. Instead, I got the impression that Greek authorities viewed the TFGR as a necessary evil to be accepted as part of the bail-out. And the Greek public may have even viewed it as an occupation force (fittingly with a German by the name of Horst Reichenbach at its helm...).

The regular progress reports of the TFGR read like success stories. They reported on all the wonderful things which had been accomplished and the so many more wonderful things which still required accomplishing. If there is one major accomplishment which comes to my mind about the TFGR, it is the fact that they helped Greece to significantly improve the utilization of EU structural funds available to Greece.

SYRIZA never displayed any great sympathy for the TFGR. Shortly after they came to power, there was talk about 'Athens protesting againsts the TFGR'; about 'Athens giving the TFGR the cold shoulder', and, finally, about 'dismantling the TFGR'. The absorption rate of EU structural funds which the TFGR had admirably increased to 88% by the end of 2014, declined quickly after SYRIZA assumed power and available funds remained unused. The TFGR was clearly a bad term in the eyes of SYRIZA leaders just like the term 'Troika' was. So once the 'Troika' was successfully renamed into 'Institutions', something had to be done about renaming the TFGR.

The term "EU Task Force for Greece" made it sound like Greece was the only country which needed help from the EU in getting its act together, which understandably hurt Greek pride. Thus, instead of having a country-specific task force, a supra-national task force was required which would be available to all countries and which would not single out any specific country for its problems. EU experts are geniuses at solving such challenges.

As the TFGR expired on June 30, 2015, as new Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) was set up in July. Its mission? "The SRSS will offer technical assistance to the Member States in order to facilitate their administrative and structural reforms". No more lofty talk about building a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterized by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos.

The objectives are further detailed as follows: "Technical assistance will be offered to help Member States absorb and use EU funds effectively. It will also offer support, in the areas of revenue management and public finance, improvement of business environment, assistance with employment, social inclusion and public health. It will also play a supporting role in development of efficient, modern, service-oriented public administrations and public procurement practices."

I wish the SRSS better luck than the TFGR has had. Above all, I wish the Greek leadership to understand that such a project, be it called TFGR or SRSS, is an exceptional opportunity for the country and not an occupation force!

Ever since the first memorandum, the following question has been on my mind: How can a country which, allegedly, has a lousy public administration, how can this country successfully implement reforms which implementation would require an excellent public administration? When I read about all the 'actions', be the prior or pending or implemented actions, which are now being passed via the democratic instrument of omnibus bills, I am simply baffled how Greece alone could implement those reforms, much less implement a controlling of the implementation.

On New Year's Eve 2012, I wrote an article titled "Make 2013 'The year of the EU Task Force for Greece'"! On New Year's Eve 2013, I asked "Was 2013 'The year of the EU Task for Greece'"? I felt very disappointed then. 

I think there has been an atmospheric change since then. Back then, the memoranda called for many actions but no one was really surprised when the reviews revealed that only a small portion of those actions had been implemented. This time around, it seems that the Institutions have run out of patience and mean business. Just like the Greeks are tired about new measures all the time, the Institutions seem to be tired about uncompleted new measures all the time. 

So finally the moment of truth seems to have come: Greece will finally have to show whether it wants to change and can. Or does not want to and/or cannot.

5 comments:

  1. Change and Taxes. Tons of Taxes.

    I think they we have no choice. I hope the ND leader selection closes well so some formal pressure can be put on Syriza. I am hoping for Georgiadis who help restructure the whole public health sector with Samaras regime. But i doubt it as he is too "Right," for the "Central Right ND."

    What a complete disapointment. Ofcourse we will move foward to change but it will not be with vigor but we will muddle through.

    Sincerely,
    V

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  2. Greece will not have any more luck with SRSS than they had with TFGR. They behave like the rotten management of a company in trouble. they listen to advice from consultants (forced upon them by their creditors or contracted by them), if the advice doesn't place all blame squarely outside the management (or country) they sack the consultants and try to find new ones.
    Lennard

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  3. The latest such joke is the recent report on pensions by the Committee of Wise Men. As soon as it was out Tsipras and other members of government stated that they were not "bound by their findings". No, that was not the joke. The joke was that it was a simple status report, without the recommendations the government had requested. In effect the government denies the status of the present systems.
    PS. There is an article about TFGR/SRSS in today's Politico "(Greek) Mission: Impossible", Unfortunately confirming my views.
    Lennard

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  4. more or less a private note, Klaus:

    The term "EU Task Force for Greece" made it sound like Greece was the only country which needed help from the EU in getting its act together, which understandably hurt Greek pride. Thus, instead of having a country-specific task force, a supra-national task force was required which would be available to all countries and which would not single out any specific country for its problems. EU experts are geniuses at solving such challenges.

    I cannot grasp "Greek pride", maybe since I couldn't ever grasp something like "German pride"? But the Greek crisis made me aware that this national pride deficit may well make "us" Germans exploitable. Or what is it really about? Do we need pride to live our lives? Does the average Greek need a "greek pride" to live his live?

    But yes, there is history to pick on, images that are firmly established.
    Apparently my obsession with Yanis Varoufakis, late on the issue, really post his retirement from politics has reached a steep decline. I am only checking on his supporters that surface.

    like Dean Plassaras

    Dean Plassaras on October 25, 2015 at 06:47 said:

    The ratzillas are on a losing path. We all need to commit to the total destruction of Berlin and the best way to do this is to allow the euro to freely float around $2.00. This will be the end of the vermin. Nice, clean and totally final solution.


    ******
    All that said, I recently meat a Greek woman over here in the "case management" department of the University Clinic. She was the roommate of a friend that has to deal with or live with a cancer that usually gets discovered in the last stage, since the bones break slightly above what is normal, and has no "solution" yet. I am using "solution" as someone that witnessed the ways cancer patients and the respective treatment up to implantations of radio-active gold in the early 70s. Much has changed for the better since then.

    The Greek woman, really a Greek-German, since she grew up here, arriving at the age of two and returning to Greece ten years ago, and back over here about a month ago.

    What she tells me, is that she was confronted with a dire situation. I am very, very aware that the health services have been changing over here too over the last decades. But below the "'Greek pride" shouldn't people in Greece have a legitimate chance to surface, not least if they have three kids to survive a challenge like a Hotdkin Lymphon?
    *******

    And would Dean Plassaras, considering his statement above, which vaguely reminds me of my studies in Nazi propaganda, really worry what happened in Germany after YV envisioned re-distributive actions? Whatever happens to the "collective ratzillas"?

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  5. Good luck (lack of success)... http://www.huffingtonpost.gr/2016/02/16/task-force-adynami-anapotesmatiki_n_9242086.html

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