Friday, June 21 2024

PM seeks to empower public officials

As part of his government’s promise to improve the efficiency and transparency of the public sector and tackle clientelist relations, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday heralded some changes, allowing general secretaries to sign off on certain decisions that to date only ministers could handle.

In practice, the changes would allow general secretaries to approve transfers of employees to other departments and to other roles as well as some other administrative decisions.

“I could say that the right to sign that you are now undertaking is also my stamp of approval for public officials,” Mitsotakis told a meeting of general secretaries. “It’s time that policy decisions are successfully implemented by technocrats,” he added.

Mitsotakis explained that his goal was twofold: “to set aside party political expediency” and “to allow the state to function.”

Apart from decentralizing power, the measure is expected to be controversial as it might strain traditional ties between ministers and their voters.

As general secretaries are not elected to their posts, but appointed, they are not dependent on outside support and, supporters of the reform argue, cannot be so easily influenced. 

Mitsotakis, who served as administrative reform minister in a previous conservative government, defended his stint at that ministry against criticism at the time that he had sought to streamline the public sector.

“I must tell you that the effort back then made me believe, without a doubt, that the public sector has an exceptionally rich human capital which the state must finally trust, so that we can finally bring about... a truly nonpartisan and meritocratic state.”

Also on Friday, Mitsotakis underlined the government’s determination to lower the tax burden in Greece, telling a conference on “The Future of Retail,” organized by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), that his first priority will be to “end the unacceptable tax siege” on individuals and especially business.

“Our plan, as we have presented it, is comprehensive, with tax and insurance interventions that benefit the taxpayer, those paying state insurance and pensioners,” Mitsotakis said.

“The ENFIA [property tax] has already fallen by 22 percent, a year earlier than we had pledged, the corporate tax rate has already fallen from 28 percent to 24 percent and the dividend tax from 10 percent to 5 percent, in addition to 1.2 billion euros in tax cuts voted in the 2020 budget,” he said.