OPINION

On taxi strike, tourism, debt deal

Siemens to bring suit against the Greek government

How about Siemens giving the government a list of each and every one of the politicians who were bribed to accept contracts with Siemens?

Obviously Siemens cannot deny they have bribed politicians to do their bidding. If the bribes are estimated to be about two billion euros, the Greek government should accept a list of all the names along with proof with the amounts given each individual.

The names should be published with the bribe amounts for each on what project and the current administration and courts should demand repayment from these individuals.

If the money has disappeared into offshore accounts, the individual’s assets in Greece, including their homes, should be sealed off and the individuals should be held in custody until they bring in the stolen funds and deposit them in the general treasury.

Those who decide to play tough and claim immunity because their crimes have been commited more than five years ago should be jailed.

There is absolutely no reason why a statute of limitations should apply to anyone who stole from the Greek citizens, while he/she was responsible to safeguard the country’s interests.

The administration should lift the immunity protection the previous politicians passed to protect their illegal actions.

While the Siemens issue is getting settled, how about looking into other conglomerates that found our politicians too weak to refuse bribes and did a booming business on our backs?

How about shedding some light into this and proving that it is not only the weak who have to shoulder the burden of the current dismal financial situation?

Monica Lane,

Florida, US

Taxi strike, a love letter

It’s just amazing to me that the Greek taxi drivers are shooting themselves in the foot, at the height of tourist season, to prove that they are still little babies that need to be breast fed by the government. No one put a gun to their head and told them they had to be taxi cab drivers, and if they believe that they can’t handle the changes, after their country went from 1st world to 4th world financially overnight, well maybe it’s time to grow up and grow a set. I am almost ashamed to be 1 st-gen Greek at these times considering that it’s not only a massive blemish on Greece, but also on all Greeks in the world. My father left Greece in the sixties, along with many other Greeks, and worked very hard night and day to became successful. He didn’t complain or moan when almost all the odds were against him. No, he became more determined than ever and literally drew on his ancestors? strength to make it, while the indigenous Greeks became soft and needy. The true Greek spirit left Greece many years ago with the diaspora. In every country the Greeks immigrated to, they became very successful and highly respected and now we have to make excuses for or cousins in Greece. I go to Greece every two years and trying to get a craftsman to do some work on our house is like pulling teeth. Appointments are set and ignored, and when you bring that up the typical response is, we don’t live by the clock here. This is the terrible mentality that grows all the way up to the halls of the Greek government. Endaksi, endaksi… alright, alright, in other words, «it will get done when it gets done» is the favorite expression of the indigenous Greek.

Grow up! have some pride in your work and stop complaining all the time and striking. You don’t like it, well work harder, like everyone else in the world does to change their circumstances. You?re not special. I feel so bad for the hardworking Greeks in Greece that pay their taxes, do their jobs well, and really care about their country while surrounded by cry babies.

I know this has been a harsh letter, but countries, like people, sometimes require tough love. I wouldn’t change my heritage, not even for a million dollars, and I love Greece and Greeks this is exactly why I have to speak up. One of my greatest wishes is to see Greece at the top of the class, a beacon of success, and a great example to rest of the world. God willing.

L Katinas

Taxi strike action continues

There is an iota of poetic justice in all of this. The taxi «drivers» accuse the Greek government of something they themselves have been accused of doing for decades by countless tourists and Athenians alike; cheating, stealing, lying, and robbing. The old axiom «What goes around comes around» is true.

John Athans,

New York City

Re: ?All hail the taxi: In defense of Athenian cabbies?

May I comment on ?All hail the taxi: In defense of Athenian cabbies? by Nick Malkoutzis.

He writes: ?The limited amount of licenses available for people to operate taxis meant that the permits became tradable commodities. In the boom years, drivers were paying up to 200,000 euros for licenses. The value of these bits of paper has been wiped out with the sector?s liberalization.? I would like to know: Did the taxi drivers pay tax on these deals? I am sure they did not.

?Limiting the number of taxis in Athens makes sense for several reasons. It gives authorities a better chance of controlling both the quality of drivers and vehicles.? Does anyone really believe this? The last hike in taxi charges was supposed to be a deal in part return for taxi drivers providing better services. Has anyone noticed this?

These selfish people are simply annoyed at finally having to pay income tax on all their earnings like wage earners, and at having to face real competition. Does anyone believe that the new drivers will be less dangerous drivers, less dishonest, less rude, or less dirty than some of the present lot?

I was once driven by someone who appeared to be seriously mentally ill. I have twice had to stop a taxi and get out mid-journey because the driver was driving so dangerously (in one case because he didn?t really want to go where I was paying him to go). I once had to direct a driver from Marousi to Piraeus as he didn?t know the way. We once reported a driver for having a meter running too fast (it was tested and it was). But three years later, when the case came to court the police had ?lost the papers.? When the union lawyer saw the judge come in he smiled, threw his arm around him and said he would be OK. It was. ?Case dismissed.?

My suggestion is that everyone use other forms of transport, if available, until such a time as the ranks of taxi drivers have been purged of the insane, the ignorant, the dishonest, the offensively rude and the dirty.

John Tomkinson

Taxi strike

It is my understanding that the cost of taxi licences has been high. It has also been stated that until receipts were required, most drivers paid little or no taxes on reported earnings. The public should be informed of these details. Perhaps the high value of a taxi permit does not justifiy the cost in relation to the earnings or the tax reporting has not been acurate. This might show us, the public, something. Real reporting of such details would justify the arguments one way or other as to the value of a licence based on the profit.

Carlyle Morris

Taxi strike, again

It is with some amusement that I view the taxi drivers? strike. Long may they deprive themselves of income.

I have been coming to Greece for many years, and used to take taxis quite regularly. However, once my wife, who is Greek, developed asthma and a tobacco allergy, it became almost impossible to take a taxi. Most of them stink of smoke, even though the drivers insist they don?t smoke (perhaps they should hide their cigarettes first), and if they are smoking — even though it is against the law — if you ask them to put it out, or leave the taxi because it?s so unbearable, they react in such an aggressive way that it?s as if you?ve just threatened to kill their mothers. Alternatively, they couldn?t care less — an attitude I?ve adopted in relation to their strike. Too many of them are also unbelievably rude, and treat their passengers — paying customers — with an undisguised contempt which is uncommon in most European countries.

We used to take taxis from the airport, but this became increasingly stressful as they always try to rip you off — the number of times we?ve had to point out they?d set the tariff at 2 (the night time rate) is beyond belief, even though it was early evening or morning. And then you have to watch them like hawks to make sure they don?t switch it back during the journey. The new 35-euro flat rate doesn?t help to avoid such theft, if you live outside the zone. We used to arrive at our house so stressed out that we abandoned taxis altogether, and now take the  X96 airport bus — hassle-free and at 10 euros for two, a stress-free bargain compared to the taxis.

Cruising for extra fares while the cab is occupied, and then trying to charge flag-drop prices twice, and also charge for any diversions made from your original route to accommodate the additional passengers, is another ploy. It?s time Greek taxi drivers developed a professional ethos, and recognized that they are meant to be providing a paid service to customers, and not doing the public a favor by giving them the privilege of riding in their ashtray on four wheels.

There is, of course, one type of taxi driver who in my experience is impeccably polite and professional, and that is those drivers who presumably get paid a pittance while their licence-holding taxi owners sit around smoking cigarettes and complaining how hard done by they are.

Please taxi owners, stay on strike for ever.

Ken Browne,

Alimos

On tourism

My wife and I visited Athens during the spring [April-May] of 2010. We had, for the most part, a wonderful time. Most of the people we met were very friendly. We did experience an attitude problem with the staff at one restaurant, but after talking to the owner we were able to put that incident behind us. We were a little concerned when the 24-hour airline strike occurred the day before we were scheduled to fly home. We were afraid for our safety when the bank was firebombed and the pregnant bank worker was killed. We have followed with interest the current problems in Greece since we returned home. We would like to make a return holiday to Greece in the near future, but we don?t know if it is safe.

Forrest Diehl

The Parthenon Sculptures

The statement by the chairman of Marbles Reunited, Andrew George, a member of the UK Parliament, argues that the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned to Greece; as the argument that there is no suitable place to accommodate, or display them no longer applies, due to the construction of the New Acropolis Museum.

On the face of it, this is a reasonable argument; in reality, it also raises the question: Is the new Acropolis Museum an appropriate building in which to display the sculptures? I am well aware that the top storey, specifically designed to house the sculptures, particularly, the metopes, is aligned parallel to the Parthenon.

But the actual museum, located on its cramped urban site, is a universe away from the setting of an ancient Greek sacred site, with its hill site, or acropolis; its temenos, or sacred enclosure; and, last, but not least, the precisely mathematically proportioned properties of temples such as the Parthenon, based on the Golden Section, or ratio of 1:1.618, which may be seen in the ratios of the columns. There are eight to the end elevations and 17 on each side. This results in the ratios of 8:5 at the ends and on the sides; with eight to 13 (the 5th and 13th columns being common, in the number 17);  5, 8, 13, all being  part of the Fibonacci Series (1,1,2,3,5,8,13, 21, etc.).

The ancient Greeks loved sites with open space, especially with views of the sea and sky and distant mountains, as is the case with the Athenian Acropolis. How does the new Acropolis Museum compare to these cosmic standards? The answer is, I suggest, not at all.

In principle, I am totally in favour of the Parthenon Sculptures being returned to Athens: but if, and only if, a more appropriate place is found for their reunification and public display.

Peter Hancock, PHD,

Lesotho

Re: Tribal Politics

 

My congratulations on an excellent commentary by Nick Malkoutzis! Why are these Greek politicians never held accountable for their crimes?

Why are they not showing an example to the public by taking cuts in their own salaries, etc?

Why do they have the nerve to blame the people for their own mismanagement, greed and corruption? 

 

Pavlos Johns 

Where are the trials of yesteryear?

Where are all the prosecutions against the corrupt government poiticians that saw the scandals of Vatopedi, Siemens and the Aegean monopoly bribe that was pitched at Mr. Pavlidis of the late ND government, to name a few.

Don’t you have a legal system in Greece?

And where is Costas Karamanlis to answer for the gross incompetence/corruption/and mismanagement under his watch for the past years and why is he not being brought to book before a court of justice or an inquiry to answer how disgracefully he mismanaged the Greek economy.

The trials of Gounaris, Hatzianestis and others who saw the disaster of the Anatolian campaign and were executed in 1923 for their disastrous handling of matters comes to mind.

A trial or a commission into the failings of the last government that allowed Greece to descend into the maelstrom would be appropriate, but why is it not happening?

Instead the citizens are being hauled to account, not the malefactors that allowed it to happen.

Victor Bizannes,

Sydney,

Australia

New deal for Greece agreed

The Prime Minister needs to be congratulated on his public performance at EU levels during the last months. Until Merkel/Sarkozy finally sat down last Wednesday to do some serious business (note that there was no leak after their meeting!), it seemed like there was a EU kindergarden on one side and a polished professional who kept his poise all the time (and didn?t talk nonsense) on the other. Congratulations!

Of course, the Prime Minister now faces the challenge to explain to Greeks why, with all that new money to come, the government will have to save even more in the near future.

More importantly, the Prime Minister needs to be aware that the present joy will last only until the next time that the Troika needs to make a compliance check (September/October?). That will be the time when Greeks have returned from the beaches to find out that, among others, their energy costs for the winter will sky-rocket.

Also, the Prime Minister needs to be reminded that any solution to the Greek problem stands on three pillars; they are intertwined and if only one of them fails, the entire construct will fail. These pillars are: government spending and public debt (much progress has been made here), the banking sector (capital flight) and the private sector (de-industrialization). The latter two pillars have not yet been addressed at all.

The deal reached is a good one for Greece in as much as it lowers the government?s interest expense and reschedules debt maturities coming up during the next three years for 15 years. It is an excellent deal for the banks because their loan maturities during the next three years will be paid and any new loans they may have to make ?voluntarily? during this time will be guaranteed by the EU.

For the taxpayers it is ?more of the same? (i.e. spend more money to bail out banks).

Whether or not it is a good deal for the Greeks depends entirely on what the next steps by the Greek government are regarding the banking and private sector. If the government believes that reducing the spending and implementing step-by-step measures (like privatizations, gradual liberalization moves, etc.) will eventually trickle down and make the economy grow, then it is mistaken.

The government must implement a comprehensive economic development plan which must be based on curtailing imports through import substitution projects, financing those new projects with foreign investment and stopping capital flight.

Klaus Kastner,

Austria

Dear people of Greece

Dear people of Greece,

You must be very happy now since the EU decided to give you another bunch of billions of euros.

Remember that this decision is made by several leaders of the EU but defitinately not the intention of our people.

The majority of our working people really have a hard time paying their mortgages, paying for education for their children. Many of us even have serious problems supporting their families with food.

Do you people feel good now? If I was in your place I should feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Especially the civil servants; are they going to retire now when they reach 45 years old? Well, I tell you, congratulations and thanks for this.

Our age of retirement was already increased to 67 years. Without doubt it will increase again, maybe to 80.

I just read a poll in a Dutch newspaper about the loans to Greece. It said: Will Greece ever be able to pay us back? Ninety-two percent answered no.

Thanks Greece, there is a lack of working attitude in your country. If you want some more money, just let us know. We will sell all our belongings, our cars, furniture and TV.

Hopefully you?ll have time enough by then to relax and drink some more ouzu and dance your beloved sirtaki on the beach.

By the way, if the latter is the case, I do have a Western European passport.

Can I come to live there too? My family and I like to cruise and goof around in your country too. Especially when we get paid for doing nothing.

Hopefully we get back our tax money someday. We worked hard for it.

A very concerned hardworking father,

Joannes den Hollander,

The Netherlands

Antwerp and Rotterdam instead of Pireus

When I go to and from work in the morning in Brussels the motorway is choked with trucks from Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and nearby places going to and from the ports in Belgium and the Netherlands. Looks like the Greek bureaucracy is successful at wasting enough of people?s time that it is profitable to drive thousands of extra kilometers to bypass Greece.

Torai Madjid