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Editorial

Coronavirus: A Problem Solving Opportunity – with some Dangers

"The wolf is happy in a storm," says the proverb – because it can move in when the shepherds are distracted.  

And in the unprecedented tumult of the coronavirus era, the ‘wolves’, consisting of those who believe in the disturbing theory of ‘minimal democracy’ as well as the reasonable desire to modernize the bureaucracy, have found their chances.

Even the strongest dictators would be jealous of the ease with which governments around the world have imposed “stay at home” and “shelter in place” restrictions on billions of people.

But you will argue that these measures are for our good, for our health.

I agree. So they are. And we will do well to take them very seriously.

Nevertheless, it is clear that several governments are also using the coronavirus pandemic both to effectively address the crisis and as an opportunity to solve some serious problems related to bureaucracy that have plagued their societies for decades.

For example, we all know that the bureaucracy in Greece serves as a brake on the country's economic development.

Now, with the battle against the coronavirus, the efficiency of the bureaucracy – the percentage of the personnel that was mobilized in several areas – such as Health and Safety, exceeded all expectations.

Many wonder if it will continue to function more effectively or if the history of the 2004 Olympic Games will be repeated – when the country returned to its previous lethargic state.

My view is that something important will remain in both organizational and individual mindsets and that this, combined with the significant changes and progress that have been made by the digital means of serving citizens, the experience will be the critical yeast needed to further modernize the bureaucracy to the great benefit of all Greeks.

I also note with interest that Nikos Dendias, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that he was drawing up a new organizational chart for the Foreign Ministry that would bring it "into the 21st century."

He is absolutely right. The Foreign Ministry, which has such great potential to better serve the nation, really needs to enter the modern era.

Care must be taken, however, to avoid mistakes, such as what is being discussed about the downgrading of the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad. The GSGA needs an upgrade, not a downgrade. A Ministry of Hellenes Abroad is needed, not an undersecretary and a deputy ministry.

But these are not matters for the present time.

It must be noted that not all governments have positive, democratic intentions like Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Some of them are moving to grab more power – such as, for example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – and are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse.

But even here, in America, unprecedented things are being said, inconceivable discussions regarding the functioning of a democratic state:

Last week, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his confidants, was asked by Time magazine about the election and he said he was "not sure" about the date of the general election because there could be a new wave of the coronavirus in the fall.

After the uproar that followed, he stated, “I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions about trying to change the date of the presidential election.”

Note that even during the Civil War, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the elections were held on time.

Concerns are also growing among those who suspect that if Donald Trump loses the election, he will refuse to hand over power, citing the supposed need for stable leadership in the White House to fight the virus. They also say that he will challenge the election results by accusing what he calls the "deep state" of rigging the election.

The chances of that happening are slim, but even the fact that such matters are being raised is a dangerous sign of the times we live in.

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