One step at a time

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Politics is like wine. It needs time to mature, and to turn sour. What you do today will repay you with interest in a few years' time. Nothing happens by itself and there are few immediate returns. That is every politician's dilemma - to do the right thing and have very few people realize it, or to do something spectacular and have everyone applaud.

The most effective policy in a democracy is to take one small step at a time. Problems aren't solved by a decision or a law. It takes action, follow-up and persistence in implementation, making corrections where necessary and then taking further action. These might seem like small things to voters, but they have amazing consequences. Politics has many aspects and that is why the laws of chaos prevail. A small decision taken today could have extremely negative repercussions over time and in certain conditions.

For example, few people attached any importance to the appointment in 2000 of Panayiotis Fourlas as head of the fire department, or in 2006 when 70 percent of the senior officials he had promoted were dismissed. Yet that contributed to the destruction of half the Peloponnese.

No one paid much attention when officials of the successful counterterrorism team were transferred to the provinces or to lesser posts. Seven years after the November 17 terrorists were arrested, the country is once again facing a similar problem and the forces of law and order are in disarray.

This is why politics calls for long-term planning and consistent monitoring of things that now seem mere details. An accumulation of "minor" decisions can bring catastrophe. So the question remains as to whether the government has the will to appraise the situation calmly and whether it feels that it has time for those small steps that will pay off in the long term, but will make a very small impact on its public image - and initially perhaps even a negative one.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 20/03/2009