OPINION

On Greek diaspora, Athens stock market, taxi drivers, London violence

The prime minister?s worries about the stock market

Doesn?t the Greek prime minister have other things to worry about than the Athens Stock Exchange? Whether the ATHEX goes up or down has presently nothing to do with the challenge of solving the Greek problem. Here is only a selection of priorities which the Greek government should spend its time on:

1) Measures to curtail imports.

2) Measures to stop official capital flight.

3) Measures to attract foreign investment.

4) Measures to curtail tax evasion.

The media attention has now shifted to Italy and the downgrading of the US. This is a window of opportunity for the Greek government to start doing things in peace and quiet. Should the government mistake this situation and feel comfortable that now the pressure is somewhat off, the window of opportunity would quickly become a lost opportunity.

In less than two months, the troika will show up again in Athens and then we will go through the same charade as we have gone through only recently. And around the same time, Greeks will realize that their energy costs for the winter season will increase dramatically.

My son is vacationing in Greece and he keeps sending me pictures of luxury resorts, luxury residences, luxury yachts, luxury cars, etc. etc. What is so difficult in asking the owners of such luxuries how they could afford them?

Where is the action, Mr. Prime Minister? You don?t primarily owe it to the foreign creditors to take action. You owe it above all to all your Greek compatriots who cannot enjoy such luxuries!

If I were a Greek and if I belonged to the majority of Greeks who cannot enjoy all those luxuries, my patience would begin to run out. I would be tempted to blame my government for condoning a status quo which is unfair, immoral and in many cases outright illegal. When asking myself as to why the government might possibly act that way, I might even conclude that the reason is that the government is part of the pack, defending particular interests instead of fighting for the interests of the nation.

I would be asking why the government still allows wealthy Greeks to transfer their money outside the country at a time where the rest of us have to borrow that money from abroad and pay interest on it. I would be asking why the government allows the import of products which could just as well be produced in Greece and create employment here. I would be asking when the government will finally make the first arrest of a prominent tax cheater.

This is not a can which can be kicked down the road. It is more like a snowball which becomes larger and larger with every passing day!

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Bishop Amvrosios

I?d like to see the Orthodox Church ?donate? some of their vast holdings of real estate to the government crisis and pay their priests from their own coffers instead of the Greek people?s pockets.

Iosifina Pantani

Comparing government reactions

Mr. Papandreou should make the viewing of Mr. Cameron?s speech in Parliament required for all members of the Greek Parliament. Perhaps they will learn how grown-up, responsible politicians handle a crisis….

Renee Pappas

Deep recession in Greece

A deep recession in Greece? So what else did one expect? A state reducing its (ridiculously high) expenditures and a private sector where capital flight substitutes for new investment? Perhaps it would be an idea to look up the notes which students of economics made during ?Economics 101.?

The only way out of a recession is new investment in revenue-generating projects. Consensus seems to be that there are presently no revenue-generating projects in Greece? Who says so?

Revenue-generating projects do not announce themselves in newspaper ads. Potential new demand does not do that, either. Both have to be found and developed. If a government wants to play a role in this (which is normally a very questionable endeavour), then the government must abstain from any mandatory measures. No private ?economic agent? will ever act the way a government tells him to act.

A government, however, has the most effective tools available. It can create a legislative environment which motivates investors and private capital to deploy their creative energies. This only works if the new legislative environment has the credibility of investors. As Friedrich von Hayek so convincingly argued, not only a state of law is required but, above all, a shared belief in the state of law by its economic agents.

Economic agents presently do not believe that any law in Greece is to be taken seriously. The Greeks themselves no longer trust government.

The power of the stronger EU states should not primarily be used to transfer money to a country where its people no longer trust the state of law. That power should be used to transfer to Greeks the confidence they should have in their state of law. How could that work?

The EU can not only guarantee national debt instruments (which, so far, it has done for lack of better knowledge). The EU should foremost guarantee compliance with certain national laws which are deemed of prime importance for economic agents.

Potential domestic and foreign investors would invest their equity in Greece (like in any other place) if the economic environment were right. Thus, one should ask those potential investors what they consider as the right economic environment. Investors would likely answer in the following manner: (1) we need to know reliable rules of the game (an investment law); (2) we need to have assurance that those rules remain in place (an EU guarantee of the investment law); (3) we need to have the freedom to establish an internationally competitive cost structure which allows us to operate profitably; and (4) we need to see market potential for the products of our new investments.

The government can any day implement a new Investment Law. Whether or not the EU is willing to guarantee it will be a matter of negotiation. If the EU refused to guarantee it (and prefer to send good money after bad), the EU would totally disqualify itself. One of the most critical aspects of the new Investment Law would be to incorporate control mechanisms which assure compliance with the law (good corporate citizenship). If the new investments fell victim to Greek habits of cronyism and tax evasion, the purpose of the new law would be undermined. Strict supervision by credible external auditors would be a condition precedent.

To impose an internationally competitive cost structure on the entire country would lead to revolution because it would mean that all Greeks would practically overnight have to accept a decline in income of 30-40% (or even more). The unions would never go along with that. Thus, the internationally competitive cost structure would have to be limited to new investments under the new Investment Law. Those Greeks who happily earn good income in the present situation would not have to make a sacrifice. The Greeks who suffer from the present situation (foremost the unemployed) would benefit from it.

Finally, the market potential. The Greek problem began when the highly valued euro made Greece expensive and when imports became cheaper than domestic production (resulting in de-industrialization and a loss of manufacturing jobs). If the substitution of domestic manufacturings through imports started the problem, the solution is to substitute imports with domestic manufacturings. There are undoubtedly many products which simply cannot be produced competitively in Greece. However, there is undoubtedly a multitude of products which could be competitively produced in Greece if the economic conditions were right. That those economic conditions are right is the object of the new Investment Law. That the new Investment Law leads to the desired results is the responsibility of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs always live up to their responsibility if the equation of risk/reward is attractive for them. All the government has to do is to make this equation attractive.

Greeks are lazy; Greek mentality prefers the easy-going way of life to the results-driven way of life of, say, Germans; Greeks are by nature crooks; Greeks cannot be trusted; etc.

Well, such prejudices have indeed been ventilated by Germans and Austrians in the recent past. But they defy the experiences which Germans/Austrians had with Greeks in the decades of the guest workers. Anyone living in Germany or Austria remembers that of all the guest workers, the Greeks were the most respected ones. They worked hard and honestly; they raised wonderful families; their objective clearly was to take advantage of the working opportunities in other countries in order to improve the well-being of their families at home (and that at great personal sacrifice). After all, the Greek guest workers motivated Udo Juergens to compose his song ?Griechischer Wein,? which has maintained popularity to this very day (and which has become a sort of hymn to the Greek guest worker).

Thus, Greeks themselves must be the first ones who start to believe in themselves (again)! The government with the support of the EU must provide the framework which allows the Greeks to leverage up on their talents which have been proven over the last few millennia!

Klaus Kastner

Austria

How did SAE come up with the 7 mln diaspora figure?

Dear Mr. Konstandaras

Joseph Goebbels once said, ?If you tell a lie often enough people will believe it.? This is the case with SAE (World Council of Hellenes Abroad) who have been peddling the myth that there are seven million Greeks outside of Greece. SAE was formed in the mid-1990s as a link between Greece and overseas Greeks and funded by the Greek state. The idea being that there is a strong overseas lobby that could help Greece?s political agenda.

In September 2001 SAE released a strategic paper through the Hellenic Foreign Ministry claiming that there are 7 million Greeks overseas. SAE estimated that in North America there were 3,500,000-4,000,000 Greeks, In Central and South America 100,000,in Africa 170,000, in Asia 50,000, in Eastern Europe 1 million Greeks, in Western Europe 600,000 Greeks and in Oceania 850,000 Greeks. Total 6.7 million Greeks and SAE rounded it off to 7 million. This is where it all began.

Using census figures which had an ancestry, religion and language code showed far less Greeks. The 2010 US census showed 1,390,439 Greeks. The 2006 Australian census 365,147 Greeks. The 2007 statistical office of Germany showed 294,891 Greeks. The 2006 Canadian census showed 242,685 Greeks. The Cyprus Foreign Affairs office 2006 showed 150,000 Greek Cypriots in Britain. The US State Department 2006 estimated that there are 117,000 Greeks in Albania. The 2002 Russian census showed 97,827 Greeks. The 2001 Ukrainian Census showed 91,500 Greeks. The Hellenic Foreign Ministry 2008 estimated 50,000 Greeks in South Africa, 50,000 in Brazil and 50,000 in Argentina. The Hellenic Foreign Ministry in 2008 estimated 30,000 Greeks in Italy, 30,000 in France and 11,000 in Switzerland. The 2001 Belgian census showed 15,524 Greeks, the 2002 Georgian census 15,166 Greeks, the 2006 Swedish census 10,760 Greeks, the 2002 Romanian census 6,513 Greeks and the 2001 Bulgarian census 3,401 Greeks. Total 3 million Greeks outside of Greece and Cyprus.

You have to wonder how much Greek taxpayers money goes into funding SAE to come up with gross estimates. SAE is now advising the Greek government of how the fictitious seven million Greeks could help get Greece out of the crisis. The problem here is there are no 7 million Greeks overseas.

Sincerely

George Salamouras

Australia

The big cleanup

My experience of living in Greece is that short of holding everything other than the family in contempt, there seems to be little that the Greek nation is good at. All one has to do is look at the litter problems in cities, towns and villages and the countryside in general to see that the average Greek citizen has no pride in their own backyard. A Greek friend of mine who resides in Birmingham and has done so for the past 30 years put it quite succinctly.

His words were simply that Greeks tend to look at a situation and summarise it thus: ?If it?s your problem, it isn?t my problem, but if it becomes a problem to me it will certainly be a problem for you.? In short, everything that happens is always someone else?s fault, never theirs. It is really sad because as an outsider, I can see what the Greek people have, it?s just they don?t realise that they are letting it all slip away, piece by piece. And when it is finally all gone it will be the fault of someone else, not them.

Bill Olafson

No sympathy for the taxi drivers….

No sympathy for the taxi drivers. In a year with tourism up, they have caused the many new tourists to Greece to have bad experiences. They have also shown themselves to be thugs.

Face it, Greek Cabbie, for years, the government?s ?intervention? in your favor has caused a low-skill profession to be extremely highly paid, far more than the market will probably bear in a few years. Is it appropriate to ?prop up? an industry, any industry, for the sake of creating ?well-paying? jobs? Who is paying the bill? Yes, tourists, but in larger part, the people of Greece who are paying inflated prices for cab rides.

I am a proud Greek American, who just returned home after my annual visit to Athens and Crete. You made my time there and many others very difficult. I look forward to the flood of taxis that will be awaiting me on my next visit.

Nikos Bits

Comparison of disurbances between London and Athens

Your writer was, I feel, trying to compare apples with pears. In your country, youth and the elderly, public servants, in fact everyone is being beset by faceless forces called the ?markets.? National democracy is (from an outsider looking in) being thrown on a fire.

The difference is that your people are (in my opinion) quite rightly saying, ?Hang on, um, where is the fairness?? In this country (England), they are saying, ?I want a Plasma TV!? (stolen).

What a political rallying cry… I despair of GB, we cannot even have a protest for the right reasons. Can I claim political asylum in Chrani?

Hope to have a Mythos soon.

Steve Parry

London calling…

Well done! It is refreshing to finally see that someone is comprehending the affects of the economic meltdown of the past three years on the populations of countries and disaffected youth. It is always easy to point fingers at specific groups but much harder for markets and governments to take responsibility for the outcomes of legislation and policies that favor the affluent and diminish and/or destroy the livelihoods of the working classes. Until very recently, the rule would be that each consecutive generation would be better off than the one before it. It is shocking to think that we of the previous generations have now created a world for the youth of today that is full of despair rather than hope for the future. Our generation has a responsibility and duty to make it right and to give them hope instead of criticism. It is utterly frightening that markets should take precedent over a sense of well-being amongst the populations of the world. I often distress over what we have been reduced to as a human race.

Louna Coumeri

Austerity

The reports are in. Greeks are spending less on basic necessities, and this is reported in the news. Of course Greeks are living more austerely, wasn?t that the order we were given by the government and the EU? We were too profligate in our spending, and now we have to cut back. But we didn?t have the luxuries to cut back on — only the basics — to begin with, or at least most of us didn?t. If it?s upsetting to businesses like supermarkets and the public utilities providers, that?s odd. Where did they expect us to cut our spending? By draining our swimming pools and closing our jewelry store acounts? They should brace themselves for worse. Many Greeks already lead austere lives. They are fully capable with getting by on very little, and so they shall. The fact that this will not help to grow the economy means nothing to most people who want only to carry on through this economic mess and come out the other side alive. Besides, without any cash, how can one buy? Our pockets are empty.

Kathryn Waterfield