OPINION

On the diaspora, the euro, gov’t salaries, elections

As far as I know, we need the tourism income. Peak booking periods are Jan-April. If we have elections and all the performance that goes with them — demonstrations, protests, strikes etc. — it will be in the foreign press again, and people will be scared to book to come here. How many times must we shoot ourselves in the foot just so some politicians can score a political point? Will we ever get to a point where citizens and politicians look outside Greece at the effect their actions have on our economy, instead of trying for personal political gain.

I have lived in Greece for 30 years and still, even after all the problems (undoubtedly caused at least in part by the same new democrats who are desperate to be elected), no one seems to have developed simple common sense. Forcing elections early this year is suicide for tourism, but then probably no one really cares as generally people in government do not seem to take the power of tourism seriously, which is why we lag behind so many other destinations. The tourist £/euro/$ is there for the taking, we are just too arrogant, and stupid, to make the most of the opportunities.

Diana Giannoulis

Corfu

The Greek president?s wages

The current Greek president, Mr Karolas Papoulias, who is 82 years old, is on a 5-year term worth 1.5 million euros, which works out to 355,000 euros each year. The Australian PM, Ms Julia Gillard, is on $481,000 (Aus dollars) per year. Keep in mind the euro is stronger than the Aus dollar, which amounts to 75 Australian cents for 1 euro.

Australia is a G-20 member and has an unemployment rate of 5.3% and many resources. Greece is broke and owes billions and has an unemployment rate of 18% — 40% for 15-25 year olds. How does the Greek state justify Mr Papoulias? wages at a time of economic hardship? Change needs to start from the top, not only with the president?s wages but with cutting back at least 100 parliamentary positions, and until this happens Greece will always be considered an international basket case.

George Salamouras

Euro — should we stay or should we leave?

Is there not now just one key choice: to stay in or to leave the euro? However, the answer to this question should surely only be given after considering how much society wishes to change.

To stay in the euro requires a major and immediate cultural change in many aspects of economic and business life in order to tackle the fact that practically everything in Greece currently costs far more than it needs to. Every restrictive policy needs to be abolished, from a set date in the very near future, say January 31st. Abolish every fixed price and guaranteed profit margin that currently maintains high prices for the consumer. Let bookshops charge what they wish for books; let law practices, pharmacists and any other professional or trader open for business wherever they can get custom and charge prices the market can bear; let any safe competent person without a criminal record drive a taxi or lorry upon payment of a simple administration fee etc etc. Competition will allow good businesses to improve services, drive down prices and reduce the opportunity for corrupt payments to those who currently have power over who is allowed to do what, where and how. None of these things are revolutionary: they work well in other countries.

If this country does not want these options, then leaving the euro is an easy way to let restrictive practices continue as before. Greece will still get poorer but at least the culture can continue unchanged.

Surely it is illogical to wish to stay in the eurozone but expect to continue as before, albeit with a smaller pay cheque?

Geoff Hughes

Kifissia, Athens

Re: Mr. Wellink

Mr. Wellink had a lot of questions and critics during this interview. Greece was just one issue. Some of us find it hard to accept that when the job is done the job is done.

Hans van der Schaaf

To euro or not to euro

Your analysis is right. Greece has to choose now: to euro or not to euro.

I do have one question: Why did nobody in Athens prepare and discuss an analysis like this one in 2000? What it would have meant for Greece when entering the eurozone. Concerning economy, fiscal policies, corruption and special (political) attitudes and responsibilities. And what has to change before entering this zone. And how this will be done.

Your analysis presupposes that today anybody is at home in Athens.

Hans van der Schaaf

Hellenic realities and the diaspora

More interesting letters…

?Greeks are hard-working while their politicians are lazy and corrupt…? OK, now these politicians, are they a special class of people born fully armed with political traits from the head of Zeus, an ?elite? class of rogues, thieves and manipulators? Or are they representative of the ?political Greek?? When a Greek gets elected, any Greek, do they immediately start on the road to lies, corruption and cheating, or are they already there? How much of political life is really representative of how many Greeks live anyhow but prefer to ignore this, and then when their leaders demostrate these traits, say of them ?Oh they are different, not like us, the ordinary people??

Greeks who go into politics or the civil service (so about say half the working population), want an easy Ottomanised Greek lifestyle with a living wage. That?s anyone in the CS, or connected to the government in some way, about 4-6 million out of 11 million. The rest (about 5 million?) in the private sector have to work twice as hard to ?support? the other lot. As has been said here, there are probably only about 4 million Greeks in the whole diaspora, maybe less. They work hard but are not a counterweight to the Greeks who willingly live off the state/government.

I?ll bet most of the letters here are not written by government paid/subsidised Greeks.

In other words there is a huge divide in Greek society between those in private sector employment who work hard and those in the public sector who don?t. It?s not just about ?working hard? but also about attitude of mind in general, willingness to change, progress, challenge restictive practices etc. It could be said that the Civil War was about those who wanted an idealised state-run country where ?someone else? would be productive while the ?party loyalists? wold be paid to ?idealise? (how very ancient Greek!), while the ?other side? wanted to work capitalism in order to break from the Ottoman/Soviet state model and be productive. This is one perspective on the Emphylio that can connect it to today?s situation.

Why should the diaspora support the 5 million government paid Greeks to rest on their laurels? There is no point thinking ?Oh Greeks are so different, so Hellenically ?superior? to everyone else that the solution will fall as manna from heaven if you philosophise about it while on German life support…? Forget you are Hellenes or Greeks. At least half of you are behaving as a leftover, a decaying leftover of the Ottoman Empire. Either that half gets given a kick up the backside by the other half to wake it up into reality (not Hellenic, just human) and find its real level to exist at, or it will take you all down with it. Four million diaspora Greeks could help with this kick up the backside if their collective will is sufficient. Is it? Only when you?ve become a succesful nation in your own right, not on the backs of others, then and only then can you be proud of having accomplished this as Hellenes.

Then you might all begin to get somewhere.

Philip Andrews