OPINION

On Keratea, Watson attack, education, restructuring, polytheists

Re: James Watson nearly attacked at Patra University

Hey, those Greek boys are really cutting free of their mothers now! Putting on masks and ganging up to attack an 83-year-old man! That is so brave! Is it possible for Greece to sink any lower? Can anyone please explain why they did it? Of course, I have seen no condemnation of this bizarre act from any politician, only Samaras’ support for his Thessaloniki chum.

Robert Skailes

Keratea: Give the people what they want

The people of Keratea apparently want to stop traffic coming to Keratea. So if that is what they want give it to them. It is time to fight this problem not with unsuccessful police efforts but by letting the people know what stopping the traffic is like. Block all roads into and out of Keratea for all but emergency vehicles. A few days of no gas, no food, no business income, no services will have a huge impact on the actions of the community.

It is more than apparent that the government will do nothing to stop the violence, and police efforts are useless and expensive. It is time for a new tactic.

However, the government stance that they will proceed without communication is wrong. The issues of Keratea must be addressed either in communication, negotiation or in court.

W. Miller

In response to Kate and Laurie Campbell

On education

I’m glad that you took the time to write and share your own experience with the Greek public school system. Is it me, or do you also notice that those responding to my original letter were all educated outside of Greece? Is it possible that Greek parents really cannot see the underlying problems with this system?

Please understand that I am not blaming parents for the present state of the public school system, but rather for not taking action to correct it. No one in government and certainly no one employed within the school system is going to do anything to introduce change. They’ve got their cushy jobs with zero accountability and do not hesitate to go on strike when something comes up they don’t like.

Therefore, I believe that parents should organize themselves into community groups and strike themselves. There are many ways to protest and shed light on the problems we face as parents. For example, what if a substantial portion of the population refused to allow their children to take final exams in protest over having to pay for private lessons.

What if parents refused to send their children to school and home-schooled them until such a time as the school system implemented the changes needed? As you and others have already pointed out, our children miss so much class time anyway, and with our paying for private lessons, it’s not as if they are not continuing their education.

Yes, those are extreme measures — but we seem to tolerate the teachers doing it (going on strike) whenever they see fit. Until we, as parents, step up to the bar and decide it’s time to demand those changes, it’s not going to ever happen. And yet, those changes are within our grasp, if we’d only take that final step…

Michalis Kotzakolios

Greeks have survived worse situations than this

I love this country and as far as I can see things are going to a EU way of living standards and prices — I don?t know if this is good since Greek is Greek. Yes, 2 or 3 years ago prices in Greece were way out of proportion from other countries. Food at the supermarket was more expensive than any other country in the EU and, now it seems to be in the same (if not lower) range than the rest of the EU. I can understand that people in Greece are having a hard time with all of the adjustments made by the needs of a restructural action in the public sector, but I like to point out that Greeks have survived worse cases and they are still one big Family… Go for it and just look ahead and don’t worry, be Greek!

Luis Alba

Restructuring is coming

Carrying out all of the reforms of the Greek economy and the public sector is not just to please the so-called Troika which has temporarily saved Greece from default. The efforts to make the economy more productive are to help insure that tax revenues will flow from a more productive private sector into the state coffers to pay off debts. The need to reduce the size of the bureaucracy and all of the entitlements that cost billions of euros is to lower the deficit to manageable numbers in order to generate surpluses to further pay off debts. Cutting down on tax evasion and improving tax collection are also to help pay off debt, as is the sale of state assets. These measures will also increase the faith of the lenders that buy the Greek government’s debt; lower deficits, a smaller public sector, and more efficient revenue generated by a competitive economy make lenders believe Greek debt is safer to buy. But there is still the enormity of the debt left to be repaid. The austerity measures being taken do not appear to be able to generate the kinds of surpluses needed to pay off the debt. Since printing euros is not an option, this leaves restructuring, and I think that’s why we are reading so many rumors in the news. The people who understand how all of this works know that for Greece, restructuring is the final option after all of the needed reforms are implemented. Doing these things puts Greece is a better position to negotiate with its lenders who are going to get soaked in the end.

 

Peter Kates

USA  

A response to Jan Smith

Mr Jan, I am a Greek-Canadian and proud of it. What makes me Greek is my mother and father. You have depicted Greeks in a way that sheds perhaps some light in what is really going on here.

If they are so dishonest and cannot be trusted, how is it possible that they could pull the wool over the eyes of big German and other European bankers? Did these lenders not know who they were lending to? Now Greece is up for sale. What a big surprise.

Greece did not act alone. The lenders are just as much at fault and now they hold an entire nation hostile. I invite all Greeks from around the globe to unite and to do what they can. This year, go there. Spend your money there. It’s the most beautiful place in the world and we are lucky to call ourselves Greeks. I know I am.

Nick Apostolakos

Greece needs more public servants to undermine the economy like it needs a tsunami

Greece is the country where people have to beg the public servants to be allowed to pay taxes, and they are refused, only to come back later to prosecute them for not paying taxes.

Greece is the country where if you demand your civil and human rights, the public servants will then find taxes you have not paid 20 years ago and demand payment, even though 20 years ago you were not earning any income.

Greece needs less people on the government payroll, and more competition and honesty.

Greece needs democracy.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

Berlin has no plans for Greek restructuring

1. Kotthaus, spokeman for the German Finance Ministry, says, «These plans have no basis in reality». Literally that means that there are German plans for Greek restructuring, but those plans are not grounded in reality. What he wants to say is that the allegation that there are plans is not founded on any evidence; that also doesn’t mean there aren’t any plans. If there were no plans, he could have said, «There are no plans for restructuring of Greek debt». So I presume he didn’t want to confirm there are plans, so he meant, «If there are plans, you wouldn’t know about them, so the allegation that there are plans must be founded on somebody’s presumption.”

2. Why aren’t there plans, if there aren’t? Shouldn’t any prudent administration make plans for such an eventuality (unless the possibility were so remote as to make it ludicrous to plan for it). If you take that comment at face value, then it either means that Germany does not view the possibility of the necessity of restructuring Greek debt as a plausible possibility, or it means that the Greek Finance Ministry is fundamentally inept in planning for the future.

Given the off-the-record comments by German and Chancellory staff on this subject, it is clear that the Finance Ministry definitely has plans for possible restructuring of Greek debt, but they don’t view it as productive to admit it in view of the effect such an admission would have on Greek bonds.

Leo Foss

Secret German plans?

The emphasis in your headline (and within Greece) is incorrect. Various international investors are unwise enough to hold Greek government debt — and a high percentage of this debt is held by German banks. This means that a Greek restructuring would affect German banks very seriously — so, of course, the German government has wisely been considering the consequences of this, and of the alternatives. I am certain they are not pushing restructuring, but rather any alternatives which are less bad for German banks. So the ‘dastardly Germans trying to undermine Greece, and force it to restructure’ story is incorrect (although in the populist Greek mode) — because this would be shooting themselves in the foot.

To put it simply, German citizens (and their governments) have avoided the irresponsible borrowing which is part of the cause of the present global financial crisis — but German banks have certainly indulged enthusiastically in the irresponsible lending, which is the other part of the cause.

Robert Skailes

Response to Slobodan Kutlesovski

In today’s edition we find a stern rebuke from Paris Athan in response to a claim that was made by Slobodan Kutlesovski regarding the Macedonian name issue. As much as I can understand the discussion that goes on about the name issue, I take offense at the bigotry displayed by Mr Athan. I am sick and tired of seeing and hearing Greeks mouthing off about their «proud heritage;» meanwhile hardly any of us know more about our so called heritage then 3 generations back (I am supposedly from Epiros, but I have no idea where further generations [back] came from). I might as well be a Slav or from further afield. Furthermore, nobody can deny the tremendous importance of ancient Greece and its influence over Western culture and society, but yet again, let me just underscore that as much as we happen to accidentally walk in their footsteps by virtue of occupying the same space, our contribution as Greeks in the world is laughable. I know, just as the next man, the immense problems our small country has had post the fall of Constantinople and its modern struggles, but why do we always have to resort to chest beating and revoke Alexander the Great, Spartans or the great society of Athens every time we want to underscore something. The truth is that those times were truly miraculous but as modern Greeks of today we had absolutely nothing to do with it, and for us to bask in former glory of the ancients just underscores our pathetic inefficiencies in today’s Greece.

Alexandros Finos

Germans and debt

I consistently read and hear the demands of Angela Merkel and her German measles, sorry, her German government regarding the Hellenic national debt. But when was the last time that you heard dear sweet Angela — who is most certainly no angel — offer to repay the mega-multimillion-euro sum that Germany legally owes the Hellenic nation over the damage and thefts caused by her Nazi forebears?

My own mother’s family were robbed of a fortune, whether the culprits are the National bank of Greece or the Germans whom the bank blamed, that means little to a family who struggled with next to nothing due to the theft.

Many a family lost their homes, lost relations, lost almost everything they had and yet Merkel and her colleagues refuse to pay what a legal body has said they must pay.

Yet they gave money to Spain and to Portugal when they did not have to do so.

As far as I am concerned, they are NOT the friends of the Hellenic people. They are certainly NOT friends of mine.

Ange Kenos

Moderm Greek Neo-Polytheists

I have been very much interested in this group of new worshippers who are trying to revive the Olympian gods. I see no reason why this cannot be done. Modern Europe created a great Renaissance on the values of ancient Greek and Roman culture, to come out of the notions of Christianity and bring in rationalism and philosophy. Now the cycle is completed. Ancient Greek religion also can be revived to make European culture a more mature and open-minded one and complete the movement of religious understanding and interfaith dialogue. The world is still peopled with millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Shintos and worshippers of old tribal gods. They are all polytheists and ancient Greek religion can help the dialogue.

Prof Bharat Gupt, Delhi University

Alexis Papachelas’s ?Up in the air?

I read Alexis Papachelas’ «Up in the air» article with great interest and agree with one of his statements above all: that Greeks need to change the way they think. Having lived in Athens for almost 3 years and having the opportunity and good fortune to work for an international company, I am in awe of the high level of education of many Greeks, and yet I am bewildered by their inability to work efficiently and more so by their unwillingness to progress and by their satisfaction with the status quo. Most surprising to me is the number of Greeks (ages 30-45) who have had the opportunity to study and work abroad, in more advanced markets, who fail to bring the skills they’ve learned back home. Those who try are met with resistence from arrogant superiors. What enrages me is the incompetence that exists in the private sector when there are so many hardworking, ambitious, bright and open-minded Greeks who are forced to move abroad to meet their professional goals. The resistance I meet in my day-to-day life when making suggestions for improvements is frustrating and heart-breaking. You would think that in light of the present economic situation, Greeks would be more willing to find ways to operate efficiently, innovate, and become more competitive. Alas, there is resistance at every corner.

I don’t intend to write this letter out of spite, or in a condescending air; I write this letter with great sadness. As a Greek Canadian, it is painful to see a country with so much potential and so many bright individuals floundering. I wonder what needs to happen for this potential to finally be realised. I wonder how much of this problem is caused by the warped mentality of Greeks and how much is caused by the hidden agenda of the powers that be.

Eleni Philos

Dear Mr Papachelas,

 

I am very glad having read your commentary today that at least some of the opinion leaders in this country do reflect on reality. It is about time that we all (natives, foreigners and guests in this country) realised and accepted the truth and nothing but the truth. It is neither the government, nor the ruling parties nor just a few crooks that led Greece into this current slump — the entire people is fully responsible for this disaster! Some more, as they directly influenced and handled larger amounts of kickbacks, graft etc. Others less, but with the same mentality in all Greeks? daily life! Egoism ruled the scene, respect was a word for the papers, not for practice. Unless this is not accepted by all of society (incl. unions, parties and the press), Greece will not have a chance of survival.

 

Please continue your task of independent and objective journalism and commentary for the sake of this entire country.

 

Ronald W. Schacht

Politicians and their graft

It’s not a secret anymore that almost all the politicians have brought our country to the brink of bankruptcy and are still using the same tactics to hold us down perpetually. Everyone knows that many of the ills of Greece have been formed not inherited. Those who believe otherwise are disillusioned. For more than thirty years, our politicians have been giving way to all sorts of unconscionable activities that marked our economies with indignified practices that led us to the brink of destruction. The irony is we are still voting for the same people who are still using the same methods that brought us here in the first place. Greece is not short on educated people, yet it’s short on thinkers. How could anyone explain the re-election of people who ate all the money of our country? How could a sane person fathom this re-election?

Our country can only be saved through a change of mentality. This is the only avenue we have for our salvation.

John Karatsis