On museum staff, the debt crisis, restructuring

Seminars on politeness please

Staff at museums and archaeological sites should undergo seminars on how to be polite, efficient and welcoming. Of course there are exceptions, but I am almost always very embarrassed when I take visiting friends to tourist sites. The staff are usually so rude — don’t they understand that their livelihood depends an Greece’s tourists?

Sarah Gilhespie

Disaster, or a great opportunity?

We all know in our hearts that Greece will default on the massive debt burden at some point. The question is not if, it’s when and how? The governments know it, the bankers know it, the man in the street knows it. In an interesting post from Con George-Kotzabasis, the last sentence sums up the situation: ?Lal predicts that a Greek default and an exit from the euro is the most likely path that Greece will follow.?

That is a disaster, yes, for the short term. But the opportunities from that point on are boundless, so much so that Greece can reinvent itself and become a model for other countries. Just as Greece is known for being the bedrock of civilization, it could become known as a modern-day Phoenix.

Listing the benefits of devaluation is pointless as they are obvious, especially to the tourism industry and exports. Within the reinvention though, comes a responsibility for a firm but fair government implementing firm but fair reforms — no one minds a hard master as long as he is a fair master — and a sense of responsibility from the people that if they want to receive treatment at an IKA hospital or an old-age pension, they have to contribute.

The recent peaceful demonstrations in Athens have shown that the anarchists have been marginalized, and that it is not the latter that is the true voice of the Greek people. This is the best opportunity that Greece has had for 3,000 years to influence others and step away from the present derision.

It is time for men with vision to step forward and the corrupt old brigade to be cast aside. Most of all it is time for collective responsibility and accountability — that is what civilization is all about.

Roly Baker, Corfu

?Reproducing more of the same?

You are right. A solution to the Greek crisis is impossible the way things are due to «inequitable division of the burden.» Worse yet, the self-organized crowds of Indignados filling the squares daily by the thousands suggests that an explosive revolution/bankruptcy scenario is here now. The troika of the IMF, EU and ECB, plus [Prime Minister George] Papandreou had better try and spread it more fairly among the contributors. Consider the facts.

Greece entered the economic union by fudging the figures while European leaders looked the other way. Then its politicians started borrowing liberally to take advantage of low European rates. Not to invest but for consumption. Bankers got into the act to pad their bonuses, governments of the lending nations looked the other way as Greece bought their goods and Greek politicians and friends lined their pockets while throwing bones to the masses. It became a farce.

You can blame Greek politicians and friends 30%; Greek people 25%; bankers 25% and EU politicians and friends 20%.

Then the troika called for reductions in government spending, tax increases etc., in hope of Greece repaying the loans. In effect it spread the burden to Greek politicians and friends 20%; Greek people 80%; bankers 0% and EU politicians and friends 0%.

So the design was to get bankers and Europeans off the hook. But in actuality it was pensioners and salaried people who took the hits. High-level corruption and tax evasion remain unchallenged. So the actual burden has been: Greek politicians and friends 0%; Greek people 100%; bankers 0% and EU politicians and friends 0%.

The problem cannot be solved on the backs of the little people, helped by asset sales. That will make them even madder. Even out the burden among the stake-holders. Go after the big corrupt, tax-evading Greek guys too, restructure the debt and have bankers take a haircut. Also, point Greeks toward development, where they are weak, to keep up their lifestyle. If they do not respond, too bad.

Tony Vlassopoulos, Toronto

Austerity cannot succeed without restructuring

The government continues on its austerity drive by cutting spending and raising taxes, putting more strain on the already over-stressed private sector in order to receive another round of bailouts from the troika.

However, that same troika and the ECB seem to be ignoring the vast size of the debt to be repaid and continues to ask a struggling economy to bear most of the burden, to pay for the stupidity of Greece’s leaders. Austerity is their main answer, along with reforming the real economy and the public sector, creating surpluses to pay down the debt. But the Greeks are being asked to cut down a debt the size of Mount Olympus with a shovel and pickaxe, without a Hercules to lead them. Yes, the austerity, downsizing the public sector and defense spending, reforming the tax collection system, and making the real economy more competitive are all necessary, not only to reduce the debt through surpluses but also to keep the Greeks from getting into this kind of fiscal trouble in the future. But the debt is too big to be reduced by surpluses alone. Restructuring is the one tool needed to make all of the other sacrifices and efforts work.


Peter Kates 

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