OPINION

On taxes, Greeks, the drachma, the citizenship law

Re: Citizenship law has minimal impact

According to the law, second generation immigrants can be recognised as Greeks if the parents have lived in Greece legally for 5 years and if their children have spent 6 years in Greek schools. The problem here is most has come to Greece illegally. Just about everyone of these people have paid Turkish people smugglers anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 each to get to Greece. Once in Greece the whole system breaks down because of Dublin II, which PASOK signed in 2003, and most end up in Athens.

When did the Greek Government invite people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Senegal and elsewhere to come to Greece legally?

There are tens of thousands of mainly Muslim immigrants in Athens and if this law applies as legals after 5 years, then you are opening up Pandora?s box and rewarding illegal immigrantion and affecting the results of future elections mainly to help PASOK who wants the above law enacted.

George Salamouras

The drachma was no answer either

The Greek drachma has had a long history and will forever remind us of the struggles we had to overcome in the 1800s and then again after the First World War. But simply returning to the drachma will not change our mindset nor foster the will to address the problems our country is facing. Simply put, our government, which includes the public sector, is too big and costs too much money to keep afloat, and our elected officials will not or cannot make the necessary changes to reform the public sector, the judicial system, and the tax code to enable the fair and equal liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

Most people have not yet realized the implications of having an appointed PM. This was the first step away from a freely elected democratic form of government. The next was the (permanent) placement of an overwatch committee by the troika in Athens. And unless we demand, albeit peacefully, that our MPs stop their pettiness and actually earn the money we pay them from our taxes, we should expect nothing less than a complete takeover/occupation of our country by the troika in 2012.

Will we allow history to repeat itself or will we take up the challenge and bring about the changes ourselves? Time is running out.

Jonathan Reynik

Modern civic virtues vs bad Ottoman habits

To Geoff Hughes, your comment is very interesting. The answer to your question lies in the very simple act of comparing like with like. Comparing Greece with modern Western European countries where civic virtues, social contracts, and health and safety regulations are willingly abided by is a mistake. Instead you need to look at the former countries of the Ottoman Empire where homes are kept immaculately clean and tidy, while public spaces are badly maintained if at all, and where there is no concept of civic virtues or social contract, and certainly not of public health and hygiene.

The reason frequently given for this was that as those populations saw themselves as being under Ottoman occupation. They therefore felt that keeping public spaces ill maintained was a public sign of displeasure at the Ottoman occupation authorities who were taking taxes away from the occupied peoples for their own ends. Another view is that the Ottoman occupation authorities were only interested in taxing populations not in maintaining them, and therefore those populations slipped into a kind of socio-economic lethargy they have not yet emerged from as a rule. Lack of civic virtue and ill-maintained public spaces can be said to be a symptom of this in post-Ottoman Middle Eastern countries. And so it is in Greece as well. It may also be this way in some Balkan countries that were formerly Ottoman provinces.

It would really help Western perceptions of Greece greatly if Westerners realised that Greece was an Ottoman province for 400-600 years (the Ottomans had occupied Greece well before the fall of Constantinople in 1453) and that it often behaves as if it is still an Ottoman province, rather than anything approaching a modern European country, or even some failing approximation of its ancient forebears. If all the well-wishing foreigners looking at Greece in bemusement and consternation would appreciate this one rather fundamental fact of life out there, they might make a start in understanding where a solution might be found.

Unfortunately, many Western foreigners looking at Greece are often far too blinded by the myth of ancient Greek glories, and trying to see these still somewhere in the blur of modern Greece. They therefore fail to take into account the very different outcome of the last 2,000 years of Greek history that took place in between the ancient bit and the modern bit.

Philip Andrews

February polls unlikely

Many of us cannot understand why so many Greeks are calling for general elections, including members of PASOK and ND. What do they think they will achieve by calling elections in February when all the surveys show, quite rightly, that most Greeks won?t vote unless there is an alternative party? In the present climate what do they think they can achieve? Greece is virtually bankrupt, whatever party controls Parliament will have to agree to the terms set by the IMF and the EU, we have no choice. We have a socialist party which for this past thirty years has concentrated on collecting votes rather than developing the two main principles of any socialist party which are free health and education. Here in Greece both services are a tragedy. On the other hand we have a right wing party which again are more interested in staying in power and never supported small private businesses and exporters. Both parties have elected leaders that are not at all popular with their voters. Mr Papandreou because he was simply not tough enough to deal with the present problems and Mr Samaras who is obsessed with FYROM, which quite frankly is the least of our problems. Many of us are thinking that if Greece continues in this sorry state, Greek Macedonia will be more than happy to join FYROM.

If we held elections in February just what will we acheive? Nothing, we would have two weak parties joined by three communist parties which can?t agree on a basic agenda.

Surely the best solution is to attempt to sort out our economy and at the same time, hope that some of our more intelligent Greek citizens, that understand organisation, business and economics can form a new responsible party to put Greece in the 21st Century.

Ann Baker

More police patrols in central Athens

My heart goes out to the storeowners of central Athens. Thousands of stores have closed in Athens. Fear reigns supreme as entire neighborhoods have been transformed into migrant ghettoes with all it?s trappings. More ominously, hotels are closing by the dozens as word has spread worldwide that Athens is a dangerous dump, thus depriving the city of any hope of salvation: the tourist dollar.

With this backdrop, what do our lovely kleptocratic politicians of Nea Pasokratia do?

That?s right, offer one more meaningless band aid. Have a poorly paid, under-funded, low morale police force that is given not one iota of respect by the political elite or citizens of Greece do the job that the entire governmental structure of Greece should be doing.

John Athans

New York City

Let the punishment fit the crime

The EU task force claims its role is to facilitate the disbursement of EU structural funds owing to their expertise in overhauling areas of public administration. Well, so far, with their help, our Finance Ministry has underestimated 2011 revenue and debt levels by wide margins, and the sale of state assets continues to be mired in bureaucratic red tape and a plethora of legal obstacles all designed to prevent change. Furthermore, our GDP continues to shrink, unemployment has risen to levels not seen since WWII, and new taxes are crippling what?s left of our disposable income. So how much help are Ms. Lalis and her team really providing?

My grandfather, who was a police detective for over 30 years, used to espouse the idea that the punishment should fit the crime. Clearly the crimes committed by our elected officials have not been punished nor is their dereliction of duty for failing to push through the reforms they promised they would when the bailout bargaining began. Therefore, to facilitate the changes so often discussed in this forum, why doesn?t the task force simply remove all of the MPs who are unwilling to embrace the reforms and appoint others who will. We, the citizens of Greece, do not deserve to be punished for the failure of our Parliament. They created this mess and it?s high time they owned up to it and worked together to provide a future for our country.

Jonathan Reynik

Rape and pillage

With reference to ?Gov?t stops tax returns to everyone?, when will the Greek government stop raping its ordinary citizens and plundering their assets? Since 2006 we have received a demand for additional tax each year. These demands were paid in full and on time. In 2011 we received a demand for the solidarity tax and for the new property tax, both of which were paid in full and on time. For tax year 2010, due to major medical expenses, we became due for a tax rebate subject to an audit. Everything requested for the audit was submitted in a timely fashion. We now hear that the audit is complete with no problems BUT we are not to receive the rebate simply because the government has arbitrarily decided not to pay its dues. Ministers still have their luxury courtesy cars, their massive salaries, additional payments, their gold-plated pensions and probably their bribes. Big business men can pay off debts of ?620,000 with an ?11,000 fine but the ordinary people can go to hell.

Every Greek citizen should write directly to the President asking him to issue a Presidential Decree stating that all members of the government will be paid legal minimum wage until the government can pay its debts to its citizens.

Warwick Gibbons

Hania

Confiscate Greek property?

Well, there?s not much left of the Greek economy for the troika to ruin, so let?s just bring in foreign law, seize state property and, going with a German suggestion, sell the islands. The so-called experts and economists of the troika should hang their heads in shame for getting it so horribly wrong, but so should the Greek politicians who are more interested in saving their egos, votes and nest eggs than they are about helping their country and fellow citizens. They are like children, fighting about their toys.

I find it hard to believe that the troika couldn?t change tack when they saw that their austerity measures were not working, instead of letting their idiotic plans just merrily (and disastrously) sputter along and kill the Greek economy. The economy has already been raped, so now the pillaging can start. When do the tanks roll in? And then the Greeks have to be grateful for the so-called haircut (after the banks have earned billions) so that the debt/GDP ratio will be ?reduced? to 120% by 2020 (dream on!). Wow, what generosity, what selflessness!

Why not admit that the Euro is structurally flawed — whether Greece fudged its books or not — and take concrete corrective measures instead of summit after summit of hot air? Sooner or later Merkozy?s fire extinguishers are going to run out of foam, and the hot air will only fan the flames even more. They purposely ignored the rules for so long, and now everyone is shocked at the extent of the crisis. Their ineptness is simply breathtaking.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

To the Melbournian 24/7 shopper

I live in Berlin, a city that has many decades of experience with long opening hours day and night. There was never a general night closing time, at least since it achieved officially the status of a big city in 1920, maybe even earlier. So your ?Melbourne change experience? is nothing new here. What you don?t take into consideration is that staying awake all night is unhealthy and therefore shouldn?t be the average lifestyle, but only for the minority, as necessary. Of course a shop that opens only 4 hours a week doesn?t make much sense, but 24/7 is equally nonsensical, because then there is no time anymore to clean up. There must be at least a few reliable restrictions, so that the shopkeepers can keep up their business withot breaking down from exhaustion and the customers find an open shop most of the time. These restrictions come from the necessary synchronisation of groups, they cannot come from individual to individual, like a baby in the first year who requires individual mother care 24/7. Grown-ups have a certain rhythm of wake and sleep, and this must be synchronised in a way to keep public life going. To call for never-closed shops as if this was a general solution is at least one-eyed.

Helga Schulz

Greek quality

I am glad that finally this kind of article has been published. For years I have been blowing the trumpet to my Greek pals for Hellenic Aerospace, a cutting-edge technology leader. They have had in the past contracts which included the British Royal Air Force for servicing jet engines and that is just one of their achievements. It is not just that the yoghurt?s good, you Greeks are actually good, no, brilliant in many fields — now is the time to show the world what you are made of!

Patrick Warwick

Milos

(An English resident for 27 years here in what is perhaps one of the better countries in Europe)