For capitalism to function effectively, it must be fair. It must accept failure for anyone who takes the necessary risks. But it must also be based on the exemplary punishment of those who operate unfairly, who enrich themselves illegally and trample on the basic rules of the state.
There is a paradox in Greece. You see entrepreneurs with healthy businesses who are anxious about their staff and the future of their company. They try to pay taxes and loans on time. The coronavirus pandemic has made them lose sleep. After 10 years of economic crisis and very difficult decisions, uncertainty has returned and they are trying to salvage what they can.
Then there is another category of “businessmen” who are relaxed and cool, who are enjoying their vacations on big yachts and at popular resorts despite the fact that they owe money everywhere and have violated every article of every legal code.
Now someone may say: What do you care? Have you suddenly become a socialist? Quite the opposite. We want a free market system in which, however, anyone who gets caught breaking the law pays the price. For example, dozens of small and medium-sized producers, who formed an integral part of the country’s productive fabric, paid the price of mismanagement of a major retailer. The same goes for Greek taxpayers, through the banks. A few years ago, an agreement was implemented with great pressure, which closed the issue without much fuss. All’s well that ends well.
Then there is the case of another company that posed as a multinational, turned out to be a fake and committed every offense in the book. Judicial authorities, the Hellenic Capital Market Commission and all the auditing authorities were asleep at the wheel and then moved at a frustratingly slow pace. Meanwhile, every representative of the Greek state traveling abroad heard the heads of large investment houses angrily explaining that they will not invest in any Greek listed company unless this case was fully investigated. The pressure increased somewhat, but the results are still out of reach.
So, something has to change. Letting companies off the hook does not help instill a new culture of respect for the rules. As one Greek banker who has spent years abroad and has knowledge of the situation in the country often wonders: “Why is Greece the only country where only good people, those who are above board, are afraid?” And when they are not afraid, they feel like fools, I would add.