In a country where we cannot even hire enough doctors and nurses to meet our most pressing needs, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras has heralded the recruitment of rural police officers with "environmental responsibilities."
This would be a nice idea in a country like Luxembourg which has a surplus budget but in Greece the proposal raises a few questions.
First, there is our fiscal nightmare. A government struggling to pick up the pieces left behind by its predecessor PASOK and which claims to be trying to cut spending by 10 billion euros will not be able to add another burden to its budget without serious difficulties.
The second question relates to the need for an "environmental police force." One can only speculate about the priorities of a state which cannot staff its hospitals but insists on creating a body to protect the country's wildlife.
The third question is about the officers' duties. What will rural policemen do that cannot be done by existing police in rural areas, forest rangers and border guards? Will they simply make sure the thyme is still growing on the hills? And if we have rural police, what use will we have for forest rangers? Is there not an overlapping of competencies?
Recruiting 4,500 rural policemen will certainly ease demands for hirings through political intervention in the countryside, as 4,500 people will have jobs there. But it is unclear why Polydoras thinks these field guards will boost the provincial economy. Even if this is so, why should citizens of Athens or Thessaloniki pay for it? Provincial municipalities should shoulder the cost of such an initiative if they are to reap the benefits.
Our state owes 108 percent of its gross domestic product. Creating a rural police force should be the last thing on our minds.
KATHIMERINI English Edition, 22/07/2006