OPINION

On Greeks, ‘Macedonia,’ tax collection

Greeks and Greece — What a disastrous combination!

Ever since I got to be involved with the Greek culture some 14 years ago (I married a Greek woman, yes, my wife comitted the immortal sin of marrying an Xeno!), I have tried to understand what I intially thought was just a «complex» Greek psyche. Despite delving into the overemphasized laurels of the War of Liberation of 1821, and glossing over the garbled history of the hapless Greek nation for the preceding 400 years until then and the 190 since, I have yet to find the thing that makes Greeks and the Greek nation so great in their own minds.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of appreciation for the «foreign» Greeks that have left the farm and went on to become industrialists, doctors, chemists and all forms of illustrious businessmen overseas, but the lot that stayed behind have simply lost the plot, and stayed firmly entrenched in the false Greek psyche of superiority, despite everything in their past and present pointing to mediocrity, and despite desperate attempts to dress all their past «achievements» in far more glory than what it deserves. A fair percentage of these have taken their cultural business practises abroad to their adopted countries, and continued there in mostly cash businesses, hiding money from the tax man at every juncture, and basically living parasitically off their adopted hosts, sending bags of money back «home» every year, to impress the people back in Greece.

Then there is the insane sense of «entitlement» that informs way too many Greek businessman that I have come across, which gives them the self-entrusted «Greek» right to rip off their customers, the government, their friends, family and everyone that dares to submit to their unscrupulous ways. Paying taxes is for «other» people, and everything that is wrong with Greece, or has ever been, is everyone else’s fault, not theirs. They are rude, uncouth and downright crass, have been the same for decades and are dinosaurs in today’s first world terms. The male-dominated culture still persists, treating their women as slaves.

Today, the Greeks have developed into a demonic artform a flawed, corrupt, nepotistic, over-legislated, totally lawless, poorly administered, overstaffed and utterly confused system with billions of euros in borrowed money, and want to build a country around it, whilst still going to church at every opportunity to beg forgiveness for their sins.

Go figure.

JAN SMIT

A response to Paris Athan

I am reading your response to me and to be honest I am quite astonished. Maybe you didn’t read carefully my two previous responses on this topic or didn’t understand what I wrote. Nevertheless, I was not trying to put forward any hypothesis of anything, I just expressed my basic human right. I never claimed anything or offended anybody. However, when reading what you are writing, I’m feeling both sad and upset.

You are talking about me insulting you (which I’ll come back to later in this response), but I really wonder who is insulting who? You are more or less calling my Macedonian awareness absurd, saying that I have misbegotten logic, that I do not understand better and that I together with «those like me» do not respect history!? Not knowing me as a person, really your conclusions about me are quite aggressive. From that point of view, implicitly you are saying that you know much better than me and that you consider yourself as much more worthy than me and «those like me».

I really do not understand in which way I am insulting your heritage and identity. In which way am I threatening you and taking your identity from you? You still have everything there! Nothing is missing. You can still regard yourself as Greek and you can still regard the ancient Macedonians to have been Greeks. That?s your human right and I am not taking this away from you.

Suppose a Macedonian Greek like you converts from Christian Orthodox religion to Islam? Will this insult your heritage and identity? How about if he/she declares himself/herself to be homosexual, for example? Will this also insult your heritage and identity? As far as I know, neither Adam nor Eve or the first monkeys of Darwin were homosexual, and this is probably both your heritage and mine. As far as I know, in the modern world of democracy, respect and tolerance, people are free to express their religion, race, sexuality etc and be accepted as such. There is no difference when it comes to the freedom expressing oneself as Macedonian. And if you do not want to «shake my hand» only because of that, that’s really your loss, not mine.

If you want to reconsider your statements, even though you consider yourself as knowing everything better than me, I will take the opportunity and recommend you to try to learn a little bit more about the «Slavs,» as you refer to us. Try to have a little broader perspective and find out what the meaning of the Latin word was and which people the Romans referred to as «Slavs». Try to separate the linguistics from ethnicity when doing this, since it really might help you understanding my awareness as Macedonian. And that I really respect the history.

SLOBODAN KUTLESOVSKI

Unacceptable delays in the Greek tax collection system

I dropped by my accountants? office and had a word with the lead partner earlier this afternoon. He was surrounded by files and tax declarations, and had a resigned look on his face. This is what he told me:

The Ministry of Finance, via the Tax Offices (DOY) only recently activated the MOF website for personal tax declarations. By recently, he means about 2 days ago, and the site is still beset by bugs and slowdowns. This is despite the fact that personal taxes can be filed since February.

He was wondering how the Ministry expected to address the deficit if there was a 2-month delay in getting the website operational for tax declarations. His office alone (2 accountants) had over 250,000 euros in personal income tax ready to submit.

To make matters worse, he showed me a folder full of bank cheques (money orders) for tax payments from his clients. In the absence of a functioning website, the Ministry issued a circular stating that individuals can submit their tax declarations in person, using a paper-based form and a banker?s cheque.

So he?s been going to the tax office of one of the northern suburbs of Athens for the past 2 months where he and his clients report their taxes, but the staff at this DOY refuse to accept either the tax declarations, or the payments. They say ?We are not responsible for this — you have to submit through the internet.? No matter that a circular has been issued. My accountant suspects it?s because the staff at the Tax Office would have to manually enter the data on each form: this takes 3-4 minutes per form.

He also said that the MOF had still not issued instructions on collecting the 2009 real estate tax, or the 2010 tax on large real estate holdings. The value of these taxes is extremely high, and in a period of deficits, he was understandably wondering why they just didn?t go ahead and start collecting these taxes.

His conclusion:

a. Despite the fact that Greece is in an unparalleled financial crisis, the front-line staff of the Ministry of Finance — the Tax Office — are well-paid civil servants in permanent positions who basically don?t give a damn about doing their jobs professionally or looking after the good of the country.

b. That as long as this mentality exists, whatever promises Greece makes to the Troika will be impossible to keep.

I can?t say I can find anything in this conclusion to disagree with. I?m just wondering why nobody does something about it.

PHILIP AMMERMAN

MANAGING DIRECTOR

NAVIGATOR CONSULTING GROUP