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Our View: Government’s weird sense of meritocracy and more ‘jobs for the boys’

The number of unemployed people remains high as jobs are handed out based on sentiment and not merit

SOME government decisions defy belief. Two weeks ago, on the recommendation of the recently set-up committee monitoring humanitarian issues, the Council of Ministers decided that one individual from each of the 13 families that lost a family member in the Mari explosion in 2011 would be entitled to be appointed to a job in the public sector.

This was revealed by the presidential commissioner for humanitarian affairs, Fotis Fotiou, who said the proposal had been studied and approved by the cabinet. The wife or children of the victims would be eligible and in the event they had neither one of their siblings would be appointed, said Fotiou. The cabinet could not have studied the proposal very carefully as it is nothing more than officially-sanctioned rusfeti. It would be hiring people not because of their abilities and merits, but because they were relatives of victims.

If the government wanted to help the families of the Mari victims, who were killed in the line of duty, it could offer a monthly grant to them for five or ten years, as a show of society’s gratitude and recognition for their sacrifice. This would be the sensible approach instead of favouring relatives applying and thus penalising other applicants who may be better qualified and more capable. This is no way for the government to show its commitment to meritocracy.

This is also confirmation of how governments have always used the offer of public sector jobs as a way of rewarding citizens. In the case of the relatives of the Mari victims, nobody would make an issue, but the decision is still a reminder of the way rusfeti works. There might not be a cabinet decision, but all governments have systematically given public sector jobs to reward party members and people who supported them in elections.

If anything, the Mari decision reinforces the view that the much-sought after public sector jobs exist as rewards for people close to the parties or government. This seems to be the primary role of the public sector and not, as many of us quite foolishly believe, to serve citizens in the fairest and most efficient way possible.

A job in the public sector should never be treated as a reward for the party faithful or a form of compensation for people that suffered as a result of the state’s mistakes. There should be other forms of compensation for the latter while state jobs should go to people with the qualifications and abilities to best serve the public.

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