OPINION

On corruption, austerity measures, rating agencies, alliance with China, Syntagma protests, Tsochatzopoulos indictment

On ?Who are they trying to save??

I have read Mr Papachelas?s article, which is a sobering reminder of the dire need for help from outside Greece. In addition, I read some of the comments. The one comment which I found objectionable was the one from Mr Stephanos Charitos of Columbia University. It surprised me coming from such a source. No word was mentioned about the root causes of this crisis, which are corruption, mismanagement and tax evasion on an apocalyptic scale which has crippled Greece for generations to come. Independent non-Greek sources estimate the loss in tax revenue (personal income tax, corporate tax and VAT) in the order of 50 to 70 billion euros annually. It goes without saying that the creditors will do their level best to minimize their losses.

Turning to sovereignty, let me remind Mr Charitos that when a state joins the EU/eurozone it voluntarily surrenders part of its sovereignty in exchange for economic, political and social benefits. As for democracy, it seems to me that Mr Charitos should take a very good look at how this has been practised in Greece for the last 30 years. I do not know what it is but it sure is not democracy as practised in the civilized world. There is an enormous democratic deficit that stands out like a sore thumb in Greece as well. Finally, and in defense of Mr Papachelas, let me remind everybody that for this austerity program to succeed and revolutionary (for Greece) reforms to take effect you require a strong government, a competent and a professional civil service. No such things exist in Greece hence the Greeks need adult supervision!

Andreas Hadzoglou, Canada

I totally agree with Mr Alexis Papachelas in his article. There is no time left to try and protect your «shop» anymore. People are fed up with the labels put on everything; work, relations etc. Before I came to live in Greece I never got a job because I belonged to a certain party. I was chosen because of my abilities.

It is everybody for everybody now and the Greek government is trying to save thing. If people from outside want to help because their knowledge is better, then please let them come. On our little island many people, foreign and Greek, are trying to get more tourists to the island. We do it together and the person who is the most knowledgeable on the subject gets the work. The work we do is not paid but you do something for the island and you can contribute.

Hey, people, let?s get of the couch and do something.

Daphne Gliveros Jaeggi, Skopelos

As a foreigner living in Greece for more than five years, it was astonishing to see year in year out the blatant corruption on all levels in Greek society, organized by the politicians with help of the civil servants / tax collectors and last but not least the private tax dodgers in unbelievable proportions.

Therefore, any troika action should first be to implement a completely new tax system and effective tax collections imposed by EU experts and controlled by the latter. Abolish the whole existing one.

All existing legal cases should be processed quickly and punished harshly if proven guilty. I was told over and over again by my Greek friends that this sort of people should be handled in a rough way, then they may start acting in a civic way; if not, put them behind bars and send in the bailiff.

Greece is a wonderful country, with nice people who deserve better than to be ruled by a bunch of populists operating together to swallow it all.

Paul Lenaerts

For years as I grew up in Greece, I heard my elders complaining about corruption in the Greek government and the state bureaucracy which could never be held accountable for its incompetence and their inefficiency, the red tape, political favoritism, employment by network and not by merit, the lack of transparency etc.

So much negativity from my elders made me wonder if there was any hope of salvation, but being young then I believed that the younger generation would amend all this with their education and their skills. Excluding of course the brain drain of Greece, like in so many smaller economies (e.g. Ireland, Portugal etc).

With such little faith in government (and it matters not if the political party in power is left-wing, right wing, center etc), in the end the Greek people vote by not paying their taxes and having little faith in their government, which leaves the country’s budget in a mess and destroys any hope of economic advancement for the benefit of all. So here we are again, indignant because we have all gone down the toilet together at last. In addition we are finally becoming a welfare state looking to foreign wealthy nations to pick up the tab and push us along. How can we keep our dignity intact? We yell that we are indignant. Not surprising. But what about figuring out how we got into this mess in the first place?

So, who are we are trying to save? Well wake up, all of us! And we can only do it when we finally acknowledge we made our own mess and have to live with it. I wonder if we will ever accept this? Perhaps there is still some hope when we recognize that we are solely responsible, then we will grow up as a people and a nation, working together, not against each other.

Milia Tsaoussis

Austerity measures

With great concern and interest I follow the debates and articles about Greece. We have lived in Elounda, Crete, for the past six years.

This year we have noticed the impact of no money in Greece firsthand: the sun beds on the beach are free but there is no beach warden to clean, the toilets are not open and are covered in graffiti, no money to employ a beach warden, therefore loss of revenue from the sun beds, a dirty beach already at the beginning of June and very, very unhappy tourists. Do you think that tourists will come back to bring their money into a place which offers dirty beaches? It doesn’t help the Greek economy to save money on the tourist industry as the tourist industry would bring that money in. I wonder if there is anyone out there with a bit of common sense.

Christine Tolfree

Combating bribery

There is an article on the BBC News website describing how some Indians have set up a website to try to counteract bribery in India: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13616123

Why doesn’t Kathimerini set up a similar site in Greece and promote its use? Better still, why not get together with all the other newspapers and all the TV and radio channels and set up a joint website? You could then all promote it. Worth a try. The government and all other politicians are so embroiled in bribery and corruption that they will never do anything to stop it. Perhaps people power might do something useful.

Warwick Gibbons, Alikianos

Ratings agencies

“After all, how stable is a currency union in which member states and millions of citizens literally depend on the assessments of three private institutions who hold a monopoly over ratings and governments to ransom?”

That’s right. Shoot the messenger(s). That’s bound to make the currency union more stable.

Von Mises

Greece’s outlook after the new troika deal

I have read with interest the comments about regulating the rating agencies. Whilst I agree that downgrading a country in the middle of negotiations with the IMF is bad form, let’s not forget that the same institutions complaining about the rating agencies gave them what power they wield, exactly through badly designed legislation. Forbid the use of ratings in banks and fund management regulations, and the problem will go away, at least partly. Remember, many institutional investors are to some extent forbidden to use their own judgment about Greek debt, because as soon as ratings fall they must reduce exposure.

Giovanni Ponzetto

On a new silk road alliance with China

I am a Greek Australian. We here in Australia have without doubt been the most fortunate to benefit from China’s emerging potential as well as India’s.

Australia has now had 20 years of consecutive economic and population growth and has avoided the last two world recessions largely because of its enhanced trade with China and India.

While many point out that countries like Australia and Canada benefit from their vastness as well as abundant resources, the reality is that the real cause of this new relationship was to move trade to the forefront of foreign affairs, not nationalistic and security issues.

It is now time that Greece learned from Australia and Canada and joined the China and India «express».

The current financial crisis of Greece, which is so multilayered in complexity, also points out that we must not solely rely on the EU for our economic and security future.

A new «silk road» diplomacy is required so that we may benefit from enhanced trade with China and India. Our shared history with China and India vastly exceeds that which we share with countries like Germany and this is what we must now build on.

As a thought, could we even imagine the potential tourist potential that China can offer Greece on an annual basis?

Jim Babalis

Greece’s troubles

The fact that this governor thinks he should have the right to suspend the sentence of a gas station owner for selling adulterated fuel is illustrative of Greece’s problems.

No one, ever, seems to be held accountable for their actions. The gas station owner gets off because of his relationship to the governor. The governor gets a year in jail, suspended for three, his brother(!) takes over his role as governor, and the governor himself says, in essence, the Supreme Court will find me innocent.

Where is the accountability? Why are brothers allowed to run for the top two jobs in a state? Governing should not be a family business. Even family businesses require skill and attention.

Harolynne Bobis

The luxury of division

The commentary by Nikos Konstandaras is a very impressive statement of self-assessment; the reader can literally sense the emotional plea behind it to come to our senses.

One of the first things we learned about Greeks in school was the quote «Know thyself.» That is the basis of any change in a human being or in a society. Without it, there cannot be constructive change.

It serves no purpose, however, to only know oneself when one leaves it with lamenting about oneself. It must not be seen as the sad end of something but, instead, as the starting point for something more positive in the future.

Just about every Greek I have ever met could beautifully explain to me all the things which were wrong in Greek society. Unfortunately, the conversation usually stopped there. Instead of coming away from such conversations with the positive feeling that things can get better, I felt a sense of resignation and self-pity that Greeks are, unfortunately, victims.

Jack Welch finished one of his books with recommendations for readers. And the last and final recommendation was: «Never allow yourself to feel like a victim!» If only Greeks could begin to live by that rule!

Perhaps artists can play a role in that. Music and words are powerful instruments in bringing about emotional upheaval, a sense of solidarity. Perhaps Konstandaras’ commentary should be distributed to schools with the mandate that teachers use it as a base for discussions among students. The only requirement would need to be that such discussions must not end with resignation and/or self-pity. Instead, they must end with at least 3 positive ideas how the young generation wants to see its future and what they suggest to do to accomplish that.

The Kennedys often used the following quote from G.B. Shaw: «Most people look at things how they are and ask ‘why’. I dream of things how they could be and ask ‘why not?'”

When an entire society goes astray, like Greece apparently is going right now, it often requires a real shock which affects the entire society (instead of only individual groups thereof) to bring people back to their senses. The Germans, after more than a decade of enthusiastic madness, received their shock in 1945 and then they came to their senses again.

Greece has so far played by the rules of the EU elites. That has prevented the big shock for the entire society but has caused tremendous shocks in parts of society. Even more divisions than before are the result thereof.

Perhaps Greece should consider no longer playing by the rules of the EU elites but, instead, develop her own rules. The resulting shock would reverberate throughout society but if it is accompanied by a clear vision of «how things could and should be», it would be an investment in a more positive future instead of the end of a long Odyssey.

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Protests

I would have loved to have seen these protests over the past years when we all knew about the corruption, bad management, favouritism etc etc that took place in this country. Most of the population seemed indifferent as long as they as individuals were doing ok. I now hope with this crisis that maybe Greeks as a society might change for the better — this is the biggest reform that this country needs. Without a caring society Greece will never be a better place to bring up our children.

Clare Doyle

Greece

Indictment of ex-minister

Finally the opposing parties in the Parliament agree on something. Let him be the first of many who should follow. Our debt crisis has been spurred by poor decision-making and greed by our parliamentary members. They know this and have been working behind the scenes to cover their individual and collective backs. If we can recover only half of the black money that they have taken, our debt burden will be greatly relieved. We should demand that all of the current and ex-members of Parliament be investigated and all of those who have taken bribes be indicted and prosecuted. All of their assets should be seized and sold to pay their debts to our country. Only by doing this will the message be sent that fraud in any form will no longer be tolerated.

Jonathan Reynik