The Greek Parliament has recently approved (20.2.2016) the government’s “parallel programme”, a package of social justice measures meant to soften the social impact of the austerity measures agreed with the institutions under Greece’s third bailout programme.
As Stavros Panagiotidis, Chief Advisor of Social Policies at the Office of the Greek Prime Minister, puts it in a report published in “transform! europe” (The Greek Government’s Parallel Program, 7.3.2016) in the elections held last September, voters accepted a new position, which was based on two axes: the application of the agreement with the institutions, combined with ongoing attempts to reduce its negative consequences, and the construction of a Parallel Program – a series of policies in every field that will improve people’s everyday lives and lay down the fundamental prerequisites for a new type of state function and economic development:
“Application of this Parallel Program has already begun and we can present some of its most fundamental elements.
The largest reform has taken place in the field of healthcare. A law that was passed two weeks ago has enabled 2.5 million uninsured people, who until now were unable to enter the public healthcare system without incurring a heavy financial charge, to be fully covered from now on. This step puts an end to the unacceptable situation of people suffering, and even dying, due to a lack of medical treatment. Also, for the first time since 2009, public hospitals will once again start recruiting medical staff (for now, the figure will stand at 3,500), creating a great opportunity in the field of social welfare.
The government has also offered free electricity and water to many households and even erased previous debts. In addition to providing free transportation to the unemployed and free supermarket goods to 148,000 people, the government is planning to offer hot meals to 200,000 school students with immediate effect and to set up a Social Solidarity Income project in 30 municipalities nationwide.
With regard to public education, the number of teachers recruited for this year’s programs in schools for children with special needs was the highest ever recorded, and universities will be able to employ permanent teaching personnel (500 PhD holders) for the first time since 2010. A new foundation, a research investment fund starting at EUR 300 million, the large majority of which is provided directly by the European Investment Bank without being added to the country’s debt, is almost ready to be set up, giving a great boost to scientific research in the country. It will also allow young Greek scientists to stay in Greece and work, offering a great opportunity to put a stop to the brain drain that has so severely affected the country in recent years.
Financial development is also the target of a new law on the solidarity economy and collectively ruled enterprises, a sector that contributes up to 10% of GDP in countries like France, which will be presented in the forthcoming weeks.
Α crucial bill was also adopted by the Greek parliament on 24 February. It is a law concerning the transparency, meritocracy and efficacy of public administration drawn up by the Ministry of Administrative Reform & e-Governance (Deputy Minister Christoforos Vernardakis). This bill constitutes a great step forward in the modernization of the Greek public administration since it deconstructs the belief that public administration is the ground for the professional development of party members. SYRIZA is arguing for this reform in the hope that it will end the Greek state’s partitocracy. Τhe party also strongly believes that this reform will abolish all types of political favor and it does not understand why New Democracy failed to support it, with the exception of some small, specific ordinances. Konstantinos Mitsotakis is the new leader of the opposition party and although he has been a parliamentarian for years, coming as he does from a family with a long political history in Greece, he wants to be considered as an enemy to partitocracy and patronage. SYRIZA claims that Mitsotakis had a chance to turn his words into action, but he ultimately did not take it.
Other parts of the Parallel Program have already been passed by the Greek Parliament, such as the new procedure for granting licenses to private TV stations, which up to now have been running without permanent licenses or paying no fees for the frequencies they use as they have been in close informal relationships with governing parties and enterprises that have been doing business with the state. Each of these changes has been greeted with a series of fierce reactions from the parliamentary opposition. The parties that have ruled the country until now can see that, in serving common peoples’ interests, these moves are evidence of the government’s supremacy. We know that in the days to come, these reactions will grow in intensity. We are prepared and determined to go on. To quote an old Arabian proverb (one we use quite often nowadays), the dogs may be barking, but the caravan moves on.”