OPINION

On tax evasion, Greece’s reputation, metro vandals

Re: Pulling Greece’s name out of the dirt

I can’t say that I agree with the cause of the problem. The fact is the elected officials are put in office by the people.

Having lived in Greece for 10 years, it was quite clear that the choice of who to vote for was directly related to whether or not they could provide one, or one’s loved one, a permanent position as a civil servant… na mas volepsei!

No one is to blame except for the people themselves. If you elect a crook, why are you then surprised when they steal?

Up until now everyone turned the other cheek because their personal gain was what was important and not the greater good of the country.

Now that there is no more money to pay for anything is it our politicians that are at fault?

All this time the fact that they were stealing was OK as long «oi volemenoi» were living the good life…

Did you not expect that the country would eventually run out of money? Did you not expect that EU grants would eventually stop?

The people are to blame… no one else. Now that the country is in the hole… put up or shut up, and have our grandchildren pay for the bill. Otherwise make a change. If you are not part of the solution you are simply part of the problem. But the only thing that we are presently only good for on a global scale is complaining.

Philippe

Dear Editors

The American politician’s intent when making a bad example out of Greece is in a sense related to the perception of Greece’s debt status, but it is also related to the Republican’s ideological war against the rather meager (by European standards) American social safety net as well as the war against government workers. When addressing the American deficit, you rarely hear about government corruption, cutting the military, foreign wars, the low rate of taxation among the well-to-do, the fiasco on Wall Street and the lack of government regulation. Instead, it’s the bloated bureaucracy and social safety net that are to blame. So, Greeks should not take the offense purposely since the invocation of Greece’s name is simply a craven game against the middle and lower classes.

Dimitri Anastasopoulos

The US Senator who Mr Pantelis Boukalas quoted in his latest op-ed article is the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Senator McConnell does not want to see the USA go down the same kind of slippery slope that Greece has allowed to happen through irresponsible government legislation, incompetent administration and outright thievery by government officials and employees at all levels.

Any competent and patriotic politician would want the same for his nation. So, it would seem that in the final analysis, Senator McConnell shares the same concerns as Mr Boukalas.

James Smeader

Tackling tax evasion — a radical idea

One of the main reasons Greece has accumulated a huge public debt is the refusal of its professionals and entrepreneurs to pay their fair share of income and corporation tax. Why pay when you can appeal any tax demand secure in the knowledge it will take a decade or more for the case against you to be adjudicated in a Greek court? By which time the case will be dropped because officials have «misplaced the paperwork» or the defendants have shifted their assets abroad. Why pay when you can settle with a corrupt (and underpaid) tax collector on the basis of 20 euros for the government and 20 euros to the corrupt tax official’s offshore bank account for every 100 euros in tax owed? Job done!

No wonder PASOK had to sack the head of the country’s tax collection system last month. The whole department is rotten and inefficient. So is the corrupt and slow judiciary.

Here’s a radical idea. Sack all the tax collectors and outsource the entire collection function to a private firm by international tender –Swiss, German or Scandinavian companies would be perfect. Create fast-track specialist tax courts adequately resourced and reward the successful firm in charge of collecting taxes with 15% of everything they earn for the government. Keep them keen by renewing the contract every five years. Watch the money roll in. The sacked tax collectors could even be invited to reapply for their old jobs. The outsourced firm, their new employed could afford to pay them higher wages and bonuses based on meeting collection targets. So the bribery incentive would disappear. All the government would have to do is stay out of the way. The deficit would vanish overnight and the national debt would soon reach normal Western European levels. Is this a great idea? Of course. Would it ever happen? Never in a million years. Ellas to Megalio Sou.

Thank God my parents had the wisdom to leave Greece in the 1960s before the rot truly set in. And now the authors of this kleptocracy want hardworking Greeks living abroad to invest in «Diaspora Bonds» to save the country they ruined. LOL Dream on. In the end, a people get the government they deserve! «Opou kai na paw i Ellada me pligonei”

Dennis Marinakis

London

Greece’s reputation

Interesting that you should question Greece’s dire reputation abroad.

But let’s look at the facts. Greek politicians have been corrupt and spineless; they have spent state money as if it was their own personal fund as part of widespread patronage schemes to create employment for voters and their extended families.

There is general mismanagement and bad governance of state institutions.

And despite being in the European Union for 30 years, and extracting trillions of euros in subsidies, loans and other funding (much of it based on lies, such as the funding of non-existent Greek olive farmers), Greece today looks less prosperous and worse managed than countries in the former Soviet bloc, who have been dragging themselves out of poverty through hard work and good management to slowly approach overtaking Greece’s income per capita. Even the Anatolian Turks look in better economic shape than Greece and in many cases are actually less corrupt.

Say what you like about the Greek colonels, and I would never advocate fascism, but as individuals the colonels were less corrupt than their democratic counterparts; they achieved success for the Greek people by, for example, linking each village to water, transport and electricity, improving the economy and maintaining a balanced budget (i.e. small international debts). If the Greek colonels called national elections at their peak, they may well have won a majority in Parliament, but they weren’t interested in democracy so restricted themselves to referendums. It must be humiliating for present-day Greeks, however, to think that the Colonels may have governed the country more fairly and efficiently than the democratic regimes since 1974.

As to why some people link Greece today with lies, corruption and mismanagement, just look at the facts. Greece under Simitis lied to get into the eurozone and offered false statistics. Greece today tends to blame everybody except its corrupt politicians and greedy citizens for the country’s woes, when the truth is that Greece has been spending far more than it earns for decades and has lied at every opportunity. We won’t even talk about the false claims for EU agricultural funds.

There are many other examples of Greek corruption and mismanagement. But Greece’s «mummy’s boys» have a mentality of rejecting all blame for the state of their country today, blaming others, and having the cheek to demand even more cash from «friends and fellow eurozone members.”

Many Greeks are hardworking and decent. It is the minority, which is quite large, that has been corrupt, lazy and criminal. In China or Stalinist Russia they would have been executed for corruption.

I feel sorry for the decent, hardworking Greeks who have to put up with a mess created by their more active and corrupt fellow Greeks — none of whom have gone to jail yet or even paid back money they stole.

My solution? It’s time for those decent hardworking Greeks to gain the upper hand over those who have been corrupt and gaining economic benefits all these years. The Greek government should enforce its laws, bring to trial those who have been corrupt, and enact measures to support economic development, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises. That’s just the beginning. Oh, and Greeks should take responsibilty for their actions and not try to blame everyone else for the fact that their extended families have well-paid jobs in the state sector.

Fyodor Zhukov

Right! Greece has to repair its image

“The starting point is to accept that the blame for the current mess lies with our out-of-touch and corrupt politicians.» Sure they are to be blamed in the first case. But the voters have to check their own eyes, too. For far too long they voted for the same old crooks, for the same system that tolerated huge debt making, tax evasion, favorism, economic stagnation and waste of money. This has to change. There will always be bad governments if the citizen let those in power get away with such bad policies. A new realism is needed, voters have to hold politicians accountable, while at the same time admitting their own laziness of the past. Greece’s problems are real, and Greeks have to be realistic now, too. Going on as before, with everybody insisting on keeping his privileges is no option. The money simply isn’t there to make everybody happy.

In this context, shooting the messenger isn’t helpful at all. Greek people need to know more about all the corruption and fraud of the past to make informed decisions. Of course, there are also emotions involved, national pride, and probably no Greek likes to see magazine covers like this one:

http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/bild-758160-205358.html (Fraudster in the Euro Family).

But the facts behind such stories are solid, and no amount of wishful thinking will make the corruption and fraud of the past go away. Greek voters would be well advised to accept the negative image of their nation for now, and to work hard to make Greece an icon of democracy, culture and a fair society again. Back to the roots!

Gray

Metro vandals

There are surveillance cameras throughout the metro system… who was watching the cameras? Where were the security guards? This is totally unacceptable. If the tapes exist they should be broadcast on TV and these thugs should be brought to justice and pay for the damage they have caused.

Renee Pappas