OPINION

On French frigates, Samaras, tax evasion, tourism

The irony of it all

After having lived in Greece for almost 10 years, I am all too familiar with the way things work in this now troubled country. I moved there to be in my country of origin, to be part of the ?Modern Greek Culture?, and to raise my children as Greeks in their homeland rather than as immigrants in a host country.

I will not go into an analysis as to why I think the country and its government have failed. What I will say is that the Greece that I knew and grew to love was the same one I saw in the stories my grandparents used to tell me. A Greece that was patriotic, proud, and strong even if it was poor by Mr. Venizelos?s standards.

I left my country over a year ago because I saw no future for my family and children, and I think that this is what the majority of the population has to deal with now.

The country is based on a social system that is corrupt to the core, and as a result cannot be salvaged in its current form. Radical changes are necessary, on both an economic and a social level. I doubt that any of the current political parties have the courage, skills, tools, or even basic education to guide the country and its people out of this situation. I fear that the once great empire of Greece will be reduced to an international yard sale, selling off the pieces our ancestors fought to defend and preserve.

I have now come back to the country I left many years ago, realizing that there is a fine line between patriotism and ignorance. Greece?s civil servants, doctors, lawyers, waste disposal workers etc. remind me of a phrase I once read in a George Orwell novel that said, ?Some are more equal than others?.

How is it fair that certain groups protest and strike at the expense of their fellow citizen? How is it fair that a citizen be asked to pay by ?fakelaki? for services that are supposed to be free?

The irony of these strikes and work stoppages is that these people do not represent the majority of the population; they represent the part of the population that has the most to lose with all the new austerity measures.

Life is indeed a circle, and what we do today will inevitably revisit us in the future one way or another.

There is no easy road ahead. In the end, perhaps this will force the population as a whole to revisit their value system and form a society that we can all be proud of once again.

Philippe Couvas

Criminals and the government

The outrageous decision by the government to backtrack on its promise to publicize the list of people with major tax debts this week, and to make it available only to members of Parliament, and then only after those named have been given 15 days? notice, presumably to give them time to take evasive action, raises the question what (or whom) they are afraid of. The first answer that springs to mind is that the government is afraid of some of those defaulters, revealing that this is a mafia-dominated state, or that members of the government and their families would be revealed as major tax defaulters themselves. What else is any reasonable person to think?

John Tomkinson

Greece

Germans query alleged French plan to sell ships to Greece

?s Texas does not carry the burden of the US defense borders budget, Greece shouldn?t be expected to pay for Europe?s either. The Greek defense budget should be part of a European Joint Defense Budget. The ?German Miracle? would have never materialised if it wasn?t for their nonexisting defense budget. During the cold war, the US and the Allies had the highest budget. Considering what happen in WW I, the ?German Miracle? is rather a ?German Myth.?

?Having footed the resulting massive bill, after the Second World War the Americans imposed the London debt agreement of 1953 on their allies, an exercise in debt forgiveness to Germany on the most generous terms. West Germany’s economic miracle, the stability of the Deutschmark and the favourable state of its public finances were all owed to this massive haircut.? Albrecht Ritschl (Guardian 21/6/11)

Did the German politicians, industrialists and press ever add up two numbers?

a) The defense budget of Greece over the last 20 years

b) The WW II debt of Germany to Greece that was forcefully taken and never repaid (this number is not reparation)

Greece and Europe are both in need of a new breed of politicians, real men or women to stand up and represent the people for a change.

Dr Marios Gerogiokas

London, UK

Optimism versus fatalism

?When a country has no iron, no coal, no oil (or very little) and no gas, it is perforce definitely third or second world and definitely not middle class, except in its fantasies?.

This was a reader?s comment recently in Ekathimerini. Possibly a correct comment. I would counterbalance it with a slogan which the Kennedys often used in their election campaigns (and which goes back to George Bernard Shaw), namely:

?Most people look at things how they are and ask ?Why?? I dream of things how they could be and ask ?Why not???

Did Japan have all that many natural resources when she started her economic conquest of the West back in the 1970s? The most important capital of a society is not its natural resources. If you have them, it makes things a lot easier. But the most important capital of a society is its human capital. When that human capital is developed (educated; and Greeks have a high level of education); when it is put to good use; and when that human capital has the strong will to accomplish something — then a society can accomplish practically everything.

Klaus Kastner

Austria

The destruction of Greece began with Andreas Papandreou

Living in Greece, I can tell you firsthand that history has already caught up with the truth of the last 30 years.

The system that these politicians developed not only destroyed Greece financially but never provided for the growth of the people consistent with that of other western societies.

Sure, there are the bad points in some western societies but respect is a key element that is almost totally absent in Greece.

What Constantine Karamanlis (senior) tried to accomplish toward the advancement of the people was totally abandoned by the political parties in favor for a system of corruption.

Peter Bournias

Greece buying French frigates is criminal

It is absolutely criminal that the Greek Government could even consider buying these frigates, despite that they don?t have to pay for them right now. The Greek government currently cannot afford decent health care and education. They are not looking after the most vulnerable in society — pensioners, children, the sick and disabled. They have an expectation that the rest of Europe and the world will bail them out and so in their arrogance they believe that in five years? time their problems will be solved and they can go about their normal routine of buying weapons instead of caring for their community! And as for the French, it is simply deplorable that they would even consider this offer, given the issues they are now facing trying to help bail Greece out of the mess it finds itself it. Shame on all of you!

Monique Fouwfler

Closed businesses? It?s all Greek all over me

All businesses will close today, or should i say must close today. Beware, all foreigners, today is the day that privately owned businesses are being forced to close in fear of union bullies. I will close my shop today for reasons I?m against. Yes I agree with the cuts the government must make to pay the bills and are long overdue. Is it possible that when union heads get together they actually discuss issues with their pros and cons? For example, if Greece defaults, what will happen to their cozy government jobs? I went around my neighborhood and asked who will be closing and they all agreed that they ?must,? reluctantly. Just to make things clear, I won?t get paid today and that goes for all my employees, of course we (private business) will shoulder the weight as usual. But hey, the mall is open and all big chain supermarkets, so if you need to get some midweek shopping done and want to avoid any striking mobs, enjoy!

Hari T

Enduring, yet again, strikes that affect the general population and now especially the strikes of the garbage collectors, I am asking a simple question.

Why have Greek governments never seriously considered burning the rubbish in incinerators?

If we look to most European countries, this is method that has been used most successfully both in terms of economy and environment.

Undoubtedly there are large investment costs but the returns seem well worth it. You can obtain heat and electricity in great amounts.

Recently I saw a BBC documentary about Danish waste management which goes back more than a century. They are now planning a new waste treatment plant that will cover 30% of the heat and electricity needs of Copenhagen when fully operational. They also manage to produce perfect soil from waste products.

Although we are in the midst of an economic crisis where no funds will be given to such projects, this waste disposal problem has been discussed and considered for many many years here in Athens.

With this solution, perhaps we would have a better quality of life and the landfill aggressions would have dissipated somewhat?

Gosta Lindstrom

Athens

Samaras not willing to cooperate

Samaras is from New Democracy, the same party that got Greece into all its debts under Kostas Karamanlis. This party lied to the Greek people about its accounting and it lied to the EU. It is responsible for the mess Greece is in at present and the mess the EU is in and even affecting the rest of the world. The New Democracy party has gotten Greece into the trouble it presently is and actually Mr Karamanlis should be held accountable and face court, and a trail should be conducted as to why he lied to the Greek people about the Greek deficit. If guilty, he should go to prison and the party should be dissolved.

Huck Berry

The Ambassador knows that I could do much more for Greece, speaking Dutch, English, Greek, German, French and some Italian. Since 1980, I have been visiting Greece every year. It would not be the first time a Dutchman would be useful for Greece. Admiral Van Heyden, of the Battle of Navarino in 1827, was a Dutchman. Also his staff were Dutchmen in Russian service.

As a Dutch social-liberal, I offered my services to the deputy mayor of Chania to develop social housing for the poorest people of the city. He was not able to give an answer. He only was interested in a press conference to seek publicity for himself.

Anyway maybe I can do something for the old centre of the city and the historic buildings together with the Office for Monuments.

I worked in Eastern Germany in urban renewal and as a university teacher of social and governmental sciences at the time when Angela Merkel started her career, and Wolfgang Schauble was minister for internal affairs in Western Germany. So I know who they are and how they act as politicians. Maybe the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs could use a well-informed Dutch advisor.

If politicians still are placing personal friends on the payroll of their ministry, even when they are not working there, or if they are placing them in high positions without transparent proceedings, still the situation is fundamentally wrong.

Greece should first clean up its policy, and then clean up its country from garbage along the roads, landfills, wrecked cars and plastic on the beaches. Tourism was this year the only secure and profitable source of income for Greece, and now even that income is in danger.

Theo Elsing,

Holland

On the deluded Greek unions and their propaganda

I am a second-generation Greek Australian with an Anglo surname of course.

I have travelled to Greece 16 times in my life and have lived there for three years and since this credit crisis started have been to Greece twice.

It amazes me the level of propaganda and utter filth that the Greek people are being fed by the left and their trade union ?cronies?, the beneficiaries of graft and nepotism. I am sick and tired of the humiliation we in the diaspora face from this anarchic system of strikes, riots and more strikes and riots.

It is disturbing that the country has now reached this mess, but the total lack of leadership is what is most daunting.

We have had no leadership since the glory days of Byzantium.

No politician has been willing to put a stop to a system of graft and anarchy that has prevailed since the unnecessary and shortsighted abolition of the independent executive of the Monarchy in 1974.

Back then the Greek people believed the utter filth of Andreas Papandreou, the subversive half-Greek/half-Pole populist, anti-everything, anti-Semitic, anti-Western, anti-Christian, populist and no-policy reactionary.

Unfortunately, the Greek people still listen to the filth of the left.

We have lacked the resolve to tackle fundamental issues of foreign, economic and domestic policy because it is this system of ?cronyism? that prevails in government policy decision making.

Until the leftist parties are destroyed and wither away, and the cronies of the trade union and anarchist movement follow them, then Greece will not move out of this crisis.

Fundamental and strong visionary leadership in the mould of Vladimir Putin is needed.

Carl Myrtle

Re: State of injustice

Fiddling taxes has been a national sport in Greece for decades (see taxi drivers striking when forced to issue receipts for a great example). If the Greek government had been getting the taxes it should, it wouldn?t have borrowed so much. The Greeks have got themselves into this mess by living beyond their means and avoiding taxes. The rest of us are working hard and paying our way and they now expect us to bail them out. Greece had a plan of spend, spend, borrow, borrow, spend, spend, borrow, borrow. They lived for the day and to hell with tomorrow. And hell duly arrived today. Irresponsible governments in Greece are the root of the problem — handing out bribes (industry-wide protectionism, low taxes, benefits, credits) or turning a blind eye (tax evasion) to get elected. Greeks who reside in Greece are not concerned about what their country?s debts are, they just want to retain the better way of life they have enjoyed since they joined the EU and adopted the euro with a uncompetitive economy along with a bloated public sector which pays wages on par with Germany. Right now it looks as if Greeks are paying heavily just to buy time for the rescue of mismanaged French banks.

Brett Oslo