Going ‘glocal’

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Local administration in Greece has gradually increased its power, imitating the pattern seen in modern Western societies.

The system of centralized authority that has for decades been applied in Greece has shown its limitations and, as British sociologist Anthony Giddens put it, the state has become too big for small problems and too small for big problems.

In the near future, a country’s model of development will have to go through municipalities and elected regional administrations.

The local elections in November are of great importance. Mayors, more than the prime minister, will be responsible for the matters that are of concern to people’s everyday lives.

On a municipal level, the elected regional officers will have more power than government ministers.

To be sure, elected local leaders have a lot on their plate. That is why their selection must be made with caution. One of the criteria here must be their management skills.

Our ever-changing world, even at the level of local administration, comes with many opportunities as well as pressures. A local leader must be smart enough to see through the risks and make the most of the opportunities.

He needs to have a holistic approach to world affairs, to be able to view his municipality or region as part of the bigger picture. He needs to have a developmental blueprint for the place he wants to serve. He must have a clear idea of where he wants to take the city or region.

Political philosophy is key. The elected leader will have to decide between solutions that make a local community more bureaucratic or more flexible. The development model will either be based on taxes and state subsidies or the mobilization of communal forces.

Local elections have not ceased to be political, but at least they are no longer dictated by exclusively partisan criteria. The dividing walls have mostly fallen and citizens are more tempted to pick those who can better administer the city or region. Decisions driven by partisan political expediency do local communities a very bad service.

Published in "Kathimerini" newspaper 24.8.2010