Since when did informing Greek citizens become a bargaining chip between the state and private companies? Since when has blackmail been used against (possible) offenders to enforce the law?
In the country of the absurd, the news that “the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE) and the EFKA social security fund warned 25,000 major debtors that they will publish their names if they do not settle their dues by June 21” (according to a report in Kathimerini) did not raise an eyebrow. In other words, publicity is no longer “the very soul of justice,” as the philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham argued. It’s a penalty!
The problem is broader than what Kathimerini rightly pointed out in its editorial: “This correct measure excludes legal entities from the narrow and wider public sector. In other words, it excludes those state entities whose financial management should be subject to strict rules of transparency and accountability. Awarding these bodies the privilege of privacy over individuals is beyond the logic of a democratic state.”
But why do companies have “privacy privileges” in their dealings with the state? Has the fashion of personal data been extended to legal entities (even under private law)? Do companies have a “personal life” that needs to be protected from the greedy eye of publicity? What if in there is a legal entity under private law named New Democracy in that secret list? What if it is main opposition SYRIZA that does not pay social insurance contributions? What if the company of the Communist Party’s company “Modern Era” owes more than 150,000 euros? Shouldn’t Greek citizens know that? How can you respond to a conspiracy theorist who says that “the list has been kept secret because it includes the businesses of many ministers?”
And that is not all. In 2005, former finance minister Stefanos Manos submitted a question to Parliament because Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) had carried out “inspections in 39 entertainment establishments and restaurants in Attica, mainly in the coastal zone,” and found “among other things, 100% adulterated samples of rum and tequila, 50% in vodka and 20% in whiskey.” He asked to know the names of the companies that served dodgy drinks. We never heard back from authorities.
Breaches of the tax code or social insurance legislation is not a private matter for businesses or entrepreneurs. It is a public act that must be audited. This is what happens in democracies. “What if the public authorities make mistakes?” one might ask. Well, shouldn’t citizens know that public authorities that make mistakes need to be improved?