Briefing a cabinet meeting on Monday, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis outlined his ministry's plans for a major overhaul of Greece's state sector that will transform it into a lean, efficient 'machine' that will not squander public money nor act as a dead weight and an obstacle to progress.
He stressed that human resources - the civil servants themselves - will be the main focus in this drive for a reformed state, which would be free of pockets of corruption and mismanagement.
Ragoussis said that the effort would require great political will and a willingness to ignore political cost, given the attitudes that dominate within the two main parties and high-ranking trade unionists concerning the civil service and broader public sector.
One of the pillars on which the new, reformed public administration will be based was the decision announced by the prime minister a few days earlier to convert the status of civil servants to that of 'employees of state', breaking down the barriers between each ministry and introducing evaluation mechanism for ministry staff.
Ragoussis noted that the more important change this introduced was not the power to fire employees but a process of evaluation that would reveal who was unfit to be in the civil service'. He expressed the opinion that the simple knowledge that they would be evaluated would prompt employees to "do their best" so that the majority would not fail such an evaluation.
"One of the major problems of the Greek state is that there is no such evaluation system for many years now, therefore no one ensures or has any incentive to perform better".
The above measures, combined with the introduction of the new, unified pay scale in the next months, will allow better staffing of public administration and end the treatment of public-sector jobs as 'prizes' to be shared out by whatever party was in power, Ragoussis promised.
According to the minister, the main wager for the success of the changes would be to convince the public, and especially civil servants still smarting after successive wage cuts, that the changes were being made to make the public sector better, rather than just cheaper.
Based on a study that Ragoussis presented to reporters, the main problem with Greece's public sector was neither its excessive size, nor the excessively high wages earned by public-sector workers, barring a handful of exceptions. According to the minister, the main problem was the policy that had been followed by successive governments in past decades.
Rather than the EU and IMF emphasis on a 'smaller' state sector, most Greeks wanted to see a 'better' state sector that would help pull the country out of the crisis, he added.