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Grow up already

Notes are seen pinned on the trunk of a tree under which an elderly man fatally shot himself on Athens' main Syntagma square on Wednesday.

By Costas Iordanidis

If Greece’s politicians had any sense of occasion, they would have kept their mouths shut. The retired pharmacist, Dimitris Christoulas, took his own life Wednesday morning in Syntagma Square because of the gross mismanagement of the finances of the country’s social security finds by a succession of governments.

Ever since 1952, when a law was passed allowing the governor of the Bank of Greece to transform the savings of social security funds into bonds and stocks, every government has systematically plundered people’s money.

Every so often, we hear a minister or fund director lamenting the magnitude of the evasion of social security contributions, even though it is they themselves who have allowed it, ostensibly to boost entrepreneurship but mainly, if not exclusively, to serve their clientelist ties. A belated drive to purge the social security system of mismanagement and corruption has revealed sordid stories of employees who issued pensions and benefits to people who did not merit them. Even though belated, this new awareness is justified.

For its part, the left had never really bothered to discuss the financial management of the country’s social security funds before the writedown of Greek debt hit their savings and bonds. It was more concerned with the fight against plutocracy and global imperialism.

The plundering of social security funds’ coffers was conducted using the excuse that the state will always cover the cost of pensions and healthcare. But the state has collapsed and the government’s pledges are not taken seriously by anyone because they are worth nothing. Greek politicians led the country to bankruptcy and squandered the savings of its workers.

Lamentations over the death of Christoulas by morose-looking politicians convinced no one. They were repulsive. And let’s hope they don’t try to lay the blame for this man’s death on the troika or the memorandum. The people responsible for the criminal management of Greece’s social security funds have names.

Control of the funds needs to be passed into the hands of their members. They should be the ones who elect their administrations, who control the revenue mechanism and who decide on whether and where to invest their savings.

What we need to see is radical change, not a show of sensitivity. The children need to grow up at last.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday April 5, 2012 (17:57)  
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