OPINION

On tips, ideas and soccer

An easy way to shrink the public sector

The Greek economy will never recover without drastically reducing the number of so-called ?public servants?. To this end, I have a simple proposal: require all government workers to retrieve their paychecks, in person, from their respective ministries and offices, bi-monthly for the foreseeable future. Further, require that these checks be deposited within 30 days (or 15).

For those who habitually show up for work, this will be a nuisance, though not a burden. For those who rarely, if ever, appear, check retrieval will be an enormous hassle. Some may live so far away, perhaps even outside the country?s borders, that such bi-monthly retrieval would be impossible. Some run their own businesses; having to appear in person will put a real crimp in their day.

True, there will be ?workers? who will be able to make arrangements for friends to pick up their checks, and there will be those in the accounting offices that will allow that to happen. But the sheer scale of the number of public employees who rarely grace their respective workplaces will make it difficult for accounting to turn a blind eye to all.

Yes, Athens traffic will be even more hideous on pay days. Yes, it will cost something to change the system back to paper. Yes, banks may have a liquidly problem, as direct deposits are replaced by checks that may not be deposited. And, yes, some missing workers will actually start showing up, feasibly leading to overcrowding. But those with a second job will need to choose between the two, potentially opening a private sector job to one of the many unemployed.

With this method, a conservative 10% of the public workforce will simply disappear, without the need to fire anyone, nor lower the wages of all workers, regardless of the quality (or existence) of the job they are doing. Morale for public servants actually serving the public will be boosted — they are powerless to complain about absenteeism without fear of reprisal, this should cheer them up. Perhaps the savings will be such that it will not be necessary to tax out of existence what few honest (though ridiculed) businesses remain, possibly averting another 300,000 private sector layoffs.

Ellen Gooch

New York

Soccer match-fixing

The whole world knows Olympiakos is a serial cheat. At least five trophies should be reclaimed off them, let alone what else over 40 years.

Juventus of Italy lost two trophies and was relegated to Serie B for the same kind of cheating.

Let?s see what penalties they pay.

Mark Davidis

Australia

Bust the tax evaders as well

It is huge news to Greek sports fans that so many have been implicated in match-fixing, from team owners and players to gangsters placing bets and winning big. Now’s the time to bust the tax evaders as well. Few sins are more unforgiveable of governments to commit than to not punish those who flout the nation’s laws, especially those who refuse to pay their taxes. The vast majority of Greeks pay their taxes, are watching their wages shrink and the cost of living go up. Why should they watch those few who evade paying their taxes not be punished for it? This is one of the first places where the Greek state can not only boost revenues without increasing tax rates, but also restore credibility not only with foreigners, but also with its own citizens as well. And credibility with the Greek public is what the Greek state needs to restore right now first and foremost.

 

Peter Kates

Is the best indication of future behavior past behavior?

If it is true that the best indication of our politicians and  citizens future behaviour is our politicians? and citizens? past behaviour, then we, in Greece, are in a lot of trouble.

Can we say that there is nothing strange or surprising about what has happened in our country, simply because the current outcome is basically a result and a reflection of who we are — how we think and behave? Many of us may be tempted to say we got what we deserved.

So many voters over the past many decades repeatedly gave the same two political parties the opportunity to slowly but surely destroy this country one day at a time, while making sure that they and their «friends and associates» were generously rewarded for their efforts.

Now that the crisis is upon us, does anyone really believe that most of these same politicians actually care about what has happened or what will happen? If they did care, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.

There are many examples around the world of governments doing a very good job of running their countries — creating growth, improving education, health services, creating jobs, attracting investments for and improving the infrastructure of their countries, having a vision for their countries? future and a clear understanding of and a desire to achieve something that will make their citizens live well and with dignity and make themselves feel worthy of being voted into office. Has that ever been the case here in Greece?

What has stopped the New Democracy and Pasok parties for the last 30 years from achieving what other governments have achieved? The answere is nothing. Most politicians here never had a genuine desire to do their job well. Most have been totally unprofessional, above all corrupt and indifferent.

Greece is probably the only «western» country that still doesn’t bring to justice politicians that have committed economic crimes. It is totally inappropriate and unacceptable that we call upon the same people who allowed this country?s destruction to now «fix» the situation. Who are we kidding? I believe, beyond any doubt, that most of our politicians don’t have the intelligence, knowledge or the desire to improve this country.  If they did, we wouldn?t have needed the IMF or troika now, would we?

Isn’t it time to send the guilty to prison? To hold the guilty accountable for destroying the lives and future of millions of Greek citizens? For how long are the Greek voters going to be as self-serving, gullible and naive as we were in the past? Are we ever going to decide to work for the good of all instead of just for our own good?

In the next elections, whenever that is, I suggest we all think very carefully about who we vote for and what we want to change while not forgetting the lessons of the past. It is up to us to demand and achieve better governments.

Mersini Nicolaidou

Athens

Punishment for match fixing

Olympiakos President Vangelis Marinakis is one of the names listed by the prosecutor for match fixing. The game against PAO at the Karaiskakis Stadium which ended in a 2-1 victory to OSFP was rigged and the whole nation watched those appalling scenes. If proven, OSFP should be sent to the second division and stripped of the 2010-11 title.

In 2006 two-time European champion Juventus was relegated to the second division and stripped of its last two Italian titles as punishment for being implicated in the country?s match-fixing scandal. In 1993 European champion Marseilles was stripped of a French title and sent to the second division due to the Bernard Tapie scandal of match fixing.

If the Italians and French can send European champions into the second division, the Greeks should do the same with Olympiakos. The Greek Government should also stop giving clubs money, no television rights and ban betting.

George Salamouras

Australia

Six myths concerning Athens

Over the past several years, Kathimerini has highlighted the dramatic decline of central Athens and the effects of this decline on the people who live in these dilapidated districts. These people are demanding answers and solutions to these very serious problems that have damaged the image of Athens around the world. Instead, what these citizens got was inaction. A laundry list of excuses to do absolutely nothing. In short, Mr. [Theodoros] Pangalos represents a lethargic government structure that is incapable of serving the needs of the people who live in these districts. Increasingly, these citizens are turning to extremist groups like Chrysi Avgi to fill this void. A development that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Perhaps Mr Pangalos should have added a seventh myth: that the government was really serious about tackling the problems of central Athens.

John Athans

New York City

Re: Britain refuses to support Hellenic Republic

I read this story, of how Britain will not help Hellas and it struck me. First, they have never really been a part of Europe except where it suited them. Second, by action or omission they have interfered with Hellas since even before ?eleftheria.?

Britain has always been in love with Britain and they care nothing about the land from which they make a fortune every year through the many stolen ancient artefacts that they illegally and immorally hold.

And they do make a fortune in tourist dollars from people travelling there to see the Parthenon marbles which they stole a long, long time ago and which they refuse to return.

How would they feel if Hellenic commandos stole their Crown Jewels?

Ange Kenos

Australia

I understand the Swedish people and the Germans, but they do not understand their own people.

I can understand how Germans feel, they work hard all day and now we are asking the Germans to bail out the Greeks, lazy stealing Greeks. It is our pathetic government that does not know how to respond to the outside world and how to deliver the real message of Greece. It is time the Germans understood what is really happening and what really happened. Let?s summarize:

1. The money that Greece has borrowed from the Germans and the French in the past ten years has gone to weapons, due to the Turkish threat.

2. If the Germans and the French were really interested in Greece as a fellow European nation, they would tell Turkey that Germany and France will support and protect Greece in the event of war, and then Greece would not have to borrow money to pay for weapons. But then the Germans would not make money from Greece.

3. The bailout, as the Germans call it, is a loan with interest, around 5.5% per cent. Germans are making interest as are all other Euro nations. This is not a bailout.

4. The second bailout, as they call it is, being put in place by the Germans and French to protect their banks, in order for their banks to get their money back. Once completed, Greece has to pay that extra money back, and Greece is back to where it started two years ago. Only the Germans and the French win.

5. Historically, of all the infrustructure projects, Germans have won them in Greece. These include OTE Telecoms, the airport in Athens, the tram, Olympic stadiums etc. It was the Germans paying the bribes; it seems the Germans like to pay bribes. Yes there are a few bad apples in Greece, but it seems every German company is a bad apple.

Wake up Germans, stop reading what they want you to read. I do not blame Germany for the problems in Greece, but I would expect some support if the Germans really know what is going on. And finally, Greece is the only country that Germany has not paid its compensation from WW2, which is billions and billions of Euros.

We will fight, we will survive.

Kerry Koutsikos

Dubai

A message to Antonis Samaras

Mr. Samaras is quoted by The Economist as ?insisting on tax cuts to boost growth, and on an amnesty for illegal buildings that could then be taxed?. That, Sir, is not an economic plan to get the private sector going again. At best, it is a Reagan-like mantra hoping that voters will fall for it. For sure, you discredit the fine American institutions where you received your education when you say such, pardon me, silly things.

 

Tax cuts affect only those who are paying taxes. No current tax cheater will start paying taxes simply because they have been lowered. And illegal buildings don?t have to be ?amnestized? in order to find them and have them taxed. Just open your eyes and you will see them all over Greek soil (and if that is not enough, use Google Earth to find all the illegal roof-top swimming pools).

 

Sir, I take it that your party represents the conservative point of view. One would assume that such a party knows how business ticks. The economy will never grow significantly if there is no investment. Investment never takes place unless it finds an investor-friendly economic framework. Please explain to your fellow country men and women that wealthy Greeks have billions and billions of euros in foreign bank accounts which are only there (and not in Greece) because Greece, with all her bureaucracy, cronyism and corruption, is scaring that money away. And if you seek a place in history, don?t waste your time playing petty politics but, instead, use your own brains and the best other brains you can find to develop a plan for an investor-friendly economy!

 

Klaus R. Kastner, Austria

Call their bluff

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that a veto of the Greek government’s austerity plans by parliament this week could mean Athens will not receive a bailout tranche it needs to remain solvent.

“If the package is rejected, which no one expects actually, then the prerequisites would no longer exist for the IMF, EU and eurozone countries to release the next tranche of aid.”

Call their bluff, tell them the Greek people will not stand for any more cuts. The usual blackmail language is being used by the Germans to bully the country (sound familiar?). Let them withhold the next installment, let them stand the consequence of that, do you think they would? I would bet my house they would come back with a plan far more suitable for Greece and its people. Come on Greek government, get off the defensive.

Roly Baker

Corfu

When will ordinary Greeks wake up?

I am very fond of Greek culture and Australia has a long history of good associations with Greece, being that Melbourne is one of the largest Greek-population cities in the world. However, during the great migrations of the fifties Greece must have lost all its hard-working people overseas to the «New World». Greeks in Australia are very hard-working… they pay their taxes and they contribute to the economy and national progress. There are even Greek-born members of parliament here. However, the current population of Greece makes me very angry.

I have listened to all sides of the debate concerning the Greek financial crisis… from the weird beliefs of some in some global conspiracy to bankrupt Greece by greedy Jewish bankers to the insane belief that some international group wishes to destroy the country forever. Nonsense!

Listen, and listen carefully, my Greek friends… there is no such thing as a free lunch. I have been to Greece and seen the terrible corruption at all levels of society there. And, I am afraid, my dear Greek friends, it begins with you… the ordinary Greeks. You who use the black market to buy goods and services to avoid taxes, who then expect generous government pensions for working a very small amount compared to other western nations, who scream «blue murder» when your under-funded social welfare system goes bankrupt… robbing you of your comfortable siestas and pensions. And, most laughably, you have employment for life in many jobs… negating the need for anyone to work hard to be productive and creating a people who are, if we are honest, just a bunch of very lazy spoiled adults who act like petulant teenagers faced with having to do household chores.

No… I am really sick of the lot of you. Because of you… yes you… the ordinary Greek, our world is facing another financial crisis of even greater proportions than that which we have recently emerged from. I think that the voices of reason within the EU governments and banking systems to cut Greece adrift… to expel it from financial union with the EU, are quite right. You will not learn unless your gravy supply is immediately cut off.

Now I’m willing to bet that this letter is never published and even if it is, some silly pimple-faced radical student who has lived no more than five seconds on earth will write a reply ranting and raving about the rights of Greeks… etc etc… it’s a pity that that same student won’t get off his backside to actually go out and do some work… and that’s the problem, dear Greeks. You make a lot of noise in protests, blame everyone else… except the bleeding obvious… yourselves! Just like petulant teenagers!

Tom Barton

Melbourne, Australia

Greek politics

I do agree with you, I have a business here in Athens and many of us are most concerned at the childish and irresponsible behaviour of both leading parties. I will also add that many ND supporters that I know of were extremely upset that Samaras was chosen to head the party as they considered him a traitor to the party. This is a man that caused the downfall of the Mitsotakis government (it was at the time that ND was questioning Intracom and OTE connections), started his own party, which was a failure. However, I do not think that PASOK has handled the situation responsibly, they have not made it clear to the general public exactly what will be the consequences of a default, nor have they praised the help and assistance being given to us by the EU and the IMF. Nor have they accepted the fact that they are completely to blame for the new austerity measures as they didn’t conform to the terms for the previous loan.

Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing will work in Greece until we make the law work. My circle of friends and neighbours are laughing at the moment over the football fiasco. How didn’t they know it was crooked? Two of the leading figures, Beos and Psomiades, are renowned in the night business, their reputations were enough for everybody to know it was crooked.

Income tax program TAXIS was produced by Intracom and even the employees that work in tax departments will tell you it doesn’t work (wonder why?). We all have an AFM number so why does tax have to be seperated ie: income tax, FPA, FMY, property taxes etc. Why didn’t they use the university with the tax officers to compile the program so that it was all under your code and avaiable to all tax offices. Transparency stops corruption and tax departments are corrupt. Our local tax department said this would be difficult, we said it wasn’t, he said there were too many IF’s, we said the IF’s are corruption.

After 20 years of business in the UK and now 30 years of business in Greece, I can honestly say I have never ever seen so much corruption as here in Greece. The only public department which does not take kickbacks is the police forensics department, we serviced their finger-printing equipment for free this year, as they don’t have funds for spare parts for the vehicles.

I sincerely hope that some members of parliament will realise that arrogance is not pride, and accept their responsibility to the Greek people and the EU.

Thank you

Ann Baker

Athens

Flotilla to Gaza

So why are we allowing these vessels to leave Greek ports if the UN has warned against it? Do we need this sort of publicity at this time? We know these ventures are problematic, especially at a time when Israeli and Palestinian officials are discussing terms behind closed doors. This is simply a provocation and even Turkey will not get involved. Surely we have enough problems of our own without involving ourselves in this conflict which does not concern us at all. My friends at Jerusalem University are most concerned over this development as the vast majority of Israelis want a two-state solution and view this situation as dangerous to their peace talks.

Ann Baker

Athens

Should the American taxpayer pick up the tab for another big fat Greek bailout?

Despite Greece?s promises, government spending is up over last year?s already bloated levels, the deficit is bigger than ever, and it has utterly failed to meet the promised sell-off of some government assets. Not a single public bureaucrat has been laid off so far.

Greece can pay off 300 billion of the 347-billion-euro debt by selling off shares the government owns in publicly traded companies and much of its real estate holdings. The government owns stock in casinos, hotels, resorts, railways, docks, as well as utilities providing electricity and water. But Greek unions fiercely oppose even partial privatizations. Rolling blackouts are promised this week to dissuade the government from selling off even 17 percent of its stake in the Public Power Corporation.

Greeks apparently believe that they have Europe and the world over a barrel, that they can make the rest of the world pay their bills by threatening to default. Greece?s default would be painful for everyone, but for Europe and the United States, indeed for the world, the alternative would be even worse. If politicians in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and other countries think that their bills will be picked up by taxpayers in other countries, they won?t control their spending and they won?t sell off assets to pay off these debts. Countries such as Greece have to be convinced that they will bear a real cost if they don?t fix their financial houses while they still have the assets to cover their debts.

The real problem is the incentives we are giving to other countries. We have to make sure that ?kicking the can down the road? isn?t an option

To be blunt, Greek politicians have miserably failed. Wait, that?s not right. You can?t say someone has failed when they haven?t even tried. Let?s be more accurate and say that Greek politicians have succeeded. They have scammed money from taxpayers in other nations to prop up a venal and corrupt system of patronage and spoils. Sure, they?ve made a few cosmetic changes and trimmed around the edges, but handouts from abroad have enabled them to perpetuate a bloated state. And now they?re using a perverse form of blackmail (aided and abetted by big banks) to seek even more money; by employing extortion tactics, Greece has totally lost its credibility, through and through. Shame really.

Teodora Chasse

Houlton ME

The troika versus Greece — either the guest team or the home team will win but it doesn’t look like a draw

With all due respect for my wife’s beautiful home country,  Greeks will have to stop denying reality!

Reality says that the troika is right that Greece must get her house in order regardless of the pains which are caused by that. That is mostly in the interest of Greeks themselves.

Greeks, on the other hand, are right when they claim that cost-cutting on the part of the state is not enough but that, in addition, there has to be a stimulus for the economy. Reality suggests, however, that a stimulus in a corrupt economy ends up in all sorts of places but rarely where it is supposed to end up. Back to point one: Greece has to get her house in order!

Nobody ever promised that life would always be fair and to many Greeks (particularly the «correct ones”) life has been incredibly unfair in the last three years. But many other Greeks (the «incorrect ones”) have been immorally unfair to their compatriots by stashing away hundreds of billion of euros which now rest in foreign bank accounts.

If Greeks are victims, they are primarily victims of other Greeks! If those other Greeks are patriotic and really want to do some good for their «most beautiful country in the world», then this is the time to stand up and be counted. In history, Greeks have often stood up to be counted.

Hate between the «correct ones» and the «incorrect ones» as well as hate against all those foreign countries which, allegedly, have usurped the poor Greeks over decades, will only lead to social unrest and destroy Europe. If the Greeks had a «new hero», he would tell them exactly that. And he would tell the «incorrect ones» to stand up and be counted or otherwise follow their money and leave the country for good!

And why can Greeks not find a «new hero”? There are undoubtedly many eminently qualified Greeks to fill that role. Why not tell them in public marches that it is now time for them to stand up and be counted, too?

Klaus Kastner

Austria

I’ll go somewhere else this summer

I love Greece!

I’ve been to your beautiful country at least 20 times since 1982.

But I need to get back home when I’m supposed to. I do not understand trade unions that strike in such a way that tourists choose Turkey or Spain instead.

Strikes should hurt the people that made this mess, not the tourism industry, which is part of the way out of it.

Maybe I’ll come back another year, and maybe I’ll find another place in the sun…

Nebel Khid

Only the Greeks can change Greece

I agree with Ingrid. To most European citizens, it is hard to understand, why we — while working more hours, diligently paying high taxes and being pensioned at 67 — are paying enormous amounts of money to Greece whose population works less hours, gets pensioned at 50 and usually does not pay taxes, which means tax increases for us. If we pay for Greece, we own Greece (will we at least get free hotel stays in Greece as a «thank you”?).

I can understand that the Greeks are angry, but they should look in the mirror first before blaming others for their mess. If you want to be part of the European Union you need to buckle up and meet those standards. If you want to be a corrupt country full of corrupt and ignorant politicians/businessmen/bureaucrats, you can join the African Union instead and be in perfect company. A country is made out of its citizens. If the citizens allow politicians to be corrupt, they will, but it’s the responsibility of the citizens. You can go out and clean up the mess, nobody else will.

In the EU Greece is the drug addict young brother who always wants money and never pays it back. So it’s high time for rehab!

1) No more money for Greece without a cashback guarantee (for every bit of cash, we want land or governmental assets as security).

2) International prosecution of all corrupt Greek politicians. Revoke their diplomatic/parliamentary immunity and get them to jail.

3) When corruption is in the DNA of a people it calls for harsh punishments. Deny government services to corrupt people (no pension, no medical help, no telephone, no drivers license) until they have made some sort of compensation (labor, tax etc).

4) Deny Greek citizenship to all the rich Greeks living in the US, UK, France and Switzerland. He who pays no taxes in Greece is no Greek. Make it impossible to have double citizenship, that would mean for US/UK Greeks that they must decide, am I American or Greek, and not steal from one country to hide in the other.

5) Either Greece leaves the European Union or becomes a financial protectorate managed by people who can actually govern a country as the Greeks themselves apparently cannot.

6) Finally fix the Cyprus issue, if you carry on like this, Turkey will simply buy it up.

Marie Seurillat

France

Re: George Soros

Reading anything from non-Greek George Soros makes me ill. This billionaire made his money by bleeding others and indeed is very lucky that he was not jailed years ago for his pathetic currency games elsewhere.

So to see that he is interested in Greece makes me think that maybe he is involved somewhere and if he is, then that explains a great deal.

That man would not care one little bit if Greece were bankrupted so long as the gutless wonder that he is made even more money.

Michael Paralis

UK