OPINION

On debt crisis, banking system, Athens mosque, metro extension

What Greece needs to do in 2012

Dear Mr Papachelas,

Greece must face the reality of its predicament. It must solve the primary problem of continuing to spend more than it collects in fees and taxes. Also, you and others must stop blaming the messenger for the current predicament. A good start is to face the truth and, having understood the choices for 2012, stay on the path to reform.

First things first, GP deserves credit for forcing both the Greeks and the EU to understand what not living within one?s means produces: the exit of Greece from the Euro with the probable unintended consequence of the unraveling of the Eurozone. The call for a referendum did not cause the crisis, it was necessary to bring the crisis into focus and was a brave and altruistic move given that ?kill the messenger? was a predictable reaction and the political cost almost certain and quantifiable. But it was the right thing to do.

Second, the only way out is with a viable and credible plan to restructure the Greek economy and make it productive. This requires courage both in its definition and its execution, especially given the current economic predicament. It takes courage to face the fact that Greece could become the Florida of Europe but will never become the Silicon Valley or China of Europe. Tourism is the ?low hanging fruit? and a plan to focus Greece as a year-round touristic destination is both credible and viable and could attain the goal of branding Greece as the Florida of Europe. Needless to say, while viable, there are obstacles to that goal including: xenophobia, elitism, lack of reliable year-round transportation connectivity, and worse of all the soviet-style planing and permiting system that stifles the economy including the touristic sector.

Third, the question of the referendum is still at play but in the guise of the next elections. Never has Greece?s future been so dependent on one man?s political survival. The deal being offered by the EU is a good one; show us a plan to become self-sufficient and we will forgive you half of your debt. Let?s close this deal ASAP and move on. The next election is vital both for Greece and the Eurozone. It is only GP who can keep Greece focused on the choice being offered and guide Greece to the day after. While no-one wants the truth, this is one time when hearing the truth is vital, and the truth is that the EU is fed up with Greece and its entitlement-dependent culture. The whole matter could be decided earlier if GP does not survive the leadership battle for PASOK, as this would send a strong message to the Eurozone that Greece is back to its familiar kabuki dance.

I am betting that GP survives because he will be able to explain to his party the same thing he has made clear to the Greeks and the EU; business as usual is over and we won?t be borrowing for our lunch… the time to reform Greece is now!

In closing, George Papandreou?s political survival is vital for Greece and for the Eurozone. Clearly the EU wants Greece to survive within the Eurozone but Greece must want to as well. Does it?

Kostas Alexakis

Greek debt

Greece is a basket case and no one will do anything… They are all fat cats and without an envelope nothing will happen in Greece or will ever change…

1. Until permanent employment is abolished in the public sector nothing will happen.

2. Ability to sack these public workers who are bean counters and cannot count their fingers should be fired without pay.

3. Tax evaders need to be prosecuted, not paid off with envelopes. The 40-40-20 rule, for which Greece is now known around the world, needs to be scrapped.

4. A land titles office needs to be set up in Greece where locals cannot build wherever they please and then pay a fine to have it legalised. This is an absolute joke.

5. The church and its priests need to be paid by the church and a clear separation of politics and religion established.

6. Incentives for companies that employ Greeks in Greece need to be set up.

7. Infrastructure needs to be built, i.e. public toilets would be a great starting point at beaches in Greece.

8. Politicians should only serve 2 terms or 4 years as any longer is too long.

9. A complaints area and hotline need to be set up and justice enforced because in Greece only people who do not pay taxes or are linked with the government get away with a lot while the rest are left to starve or to migrate as they have no future in Greece.

10. Regional council staff only assist their own and if you are a foreigner and go in there to seek assistance you are told to get out and threatened with penalties.

Unfortunately that is the reality and until some of the above are put into action and enforced nothing will change and Greece will be known around the world as a basket case…

Sad but true.

Pet Kes

Thessaloniki

Policy dilemma or more fuel to stoke the state of fear

How many times must reporters be reminded that Greece cannot leave the Euro monetary union without a specific change in the EU constitution? This is a fact that has been repeatedly ignored or mistated by the corporate owned and hence controlled media that have been desperately trying to incite a state of fear throughout our country. If you really think about it, why would the ECB or any other private bank walk away from the firesale of Greece assets that will happen this year and in the coming years? Our government needs to shed assets to reduce its debt load. It was reported today in Kathemerini that 4 unused Airbus jets were just sold for less than Euro 10 million each. Amazing when you consider that they sell for over 40 million new. That should give anyone an indication of what?s in store for the future. So, to all the would-be reporters contributing to this news venue, please get your facts straight before trying to peddle your unsubstantiated opinions. We, the citizens of Greece, have to sort through enough deceit from our elected officials. We certainly don?t need reporters adding fuel to that fire.

Jonathan Reynik

The future of the banking system

(Current Greek) Politicians running the banks? A bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

Sinking ship

This reminds me of the Titanic, while the ship was sinking the band kept playing. While Greece is going bankrupt the Greeks keep squabbling about the name of one of their neighbouring countries. The Greek sense of priorities does not give much hope on the outcome of this drama.

Coburn John

100.6 FM Thessaloniki

Having a public forum-driven radio format is great news for Greece. I only wonder how one excludes political opinion from culture. Most contemporary art and music contains a cultural message that includes politics. Good luck with this, and maybe others will step in and start one in their locality.

Kathryn Waterfield

The crisis started in Greece

The crisis started in Greece and has deteriorated there instead or because of the billions of the rescue programme.

Venizelos: Every EU nation is obliged to save Greece — with the only exception, Greece herself.

The Greeks are fully engaged in cooking books, deceive the donors, announcing without implementation, mass evasion from taxes, keeping needless jobs with lifelong pay and insult the main donor, Germany, as Nazis, and polishing the beggar?s bowl for the next donation, urgently needed.

The most ruthless crook will win the Greece elections.

With the promise that he will rip off the savings of the citizens in the donor nations, especially the Nazis, and avoid any austerity measures in Greece.

Vielnick Anton

On being a Greek African

Having grown up in South Africa, I nonetheless spoke Greek along with English from a young age. Amidst the predominant Anglo culture of South Africa, I was saved from complete disconnection from my Greek heritage by a fiercely patriotic Greek grandmother, a Cephallonian Nona to be exact. Throughout my childhood years, which saw me visit Greece a few times on family trips, I was reminded on a daily basis of my proud heritage and of the enormous contribution that Greece made toward European civilisation. My everyday experience was shaped by the fantastic Greek cuisine, music, and tales of Cephallonia and Greece as a whole — in short, I was a child of the Diaspora.

Some of your readers may not be aware that Greek immigrants to South Africa during the Apartheid era were not welcomed with open arms. Their darker complexion aroused much suspicion among the white supremacists who held political sway at the time, and though nobody could deny their European origins they faced discrimination on a daily basis. The success which my grandparents? hard-working generation enjoyed in South Africa did little to endear them to the locals, and all of these factors contributed to the development of a ?ghetto mentality? which shaped the daily lives of South African Greeks and bound them to Hellenic culture.

Throughout their married life, my grandparents saved money each month and purchased an apartment in Kypseli, Athens. This was their little piece of Greece, the land they left behind and longed to return to. In the event, they forewent that return to the Patrida and spent their final years with the family here in South Africa.

On a recent trip to Athens I decided to take a trip to Kypseli, the place I had heard about in such glowing terms — a place of real Urbanity and European lifestyle. What I saw in Kypseli touched me to the core, and I am glad my grandparents never saw the area as it is today. Once the initial shock of finding myself in a ghetto had subsided (I?ve seen worse in South Africa, but didn?t expect it in ?civilised? Europe) it struck me that I was a Greek African surrounded by African Greeks — people who have fled their homelands and find themselves at odds with the society around them, just like the Greek Diaspora. My experiences in central Athens — drug abuse taking place in the open, shocking images of urban decay, and the long-suffering Greek businesspeople I befriended who do their best to make a living as their stores are looted and burnt, leave me with a feeling of tremendous sadness.

I have been to the ?good? areas of Athens — my relatives all live there. From Kifissia to Voula and beyond I met affluent Greeks who say ?good riddance to central Athens? — but I disagree. It may not be my place to say so, since I don?t reside in Greece, but something must be done to arrest the decay of Athens, a wonderful city I would move to in a flash if the opportunity arose. The financial crisis presents an opportunity to reclaim the ghettoes, so that cafes and trendy stores replace the drug dens and brothels — so that the spirit of Greece can once again be felt beneath the Parthenon. For the immigrants? part, they need either to be accepted in society or deported — you will probably find however that integrating them is a lot less costly and more productive than removing them.

My letter may not change the course of Athens? history, but I beseech all constructive thinkers and activists in the city to act and save your magnificent, vibrant city from the twin evils that claw at its soul — urban decay in the inner city, and the flight to suburbia which will strip Athenian culture of its Urbanity in one generation.

An African Greek

Cape Town, South Africa

Suggestions to assist Mr Papdemos with his mission

The interim premier’s task has been made even more difficult by the fact that the 2011 public deficit is expected to come in above 10 percent of gross domestic product, rather than 9 percent. This means Athens will have to find another 2.5 to 3 billion euros in 2012.

This can be resolved simply by levying a one-time tax on our nation’s shipowners, who have made and continue to make untold millions yet pay next to nothing in taxes. It’s time they demonstrated their patriotism by joining the austerity party and pay taxes according to their real income and property ownership.

The measures that Papademos will present to the troika of foreign lenders are likely to include:

A reduction in supplementary pensions: Simple. Reduce all parliamentary supplementary pensions by the same percentage as the bond holders? haircut.

Public sector sackings: A bit more time-consuming but doable by conducting an internal audit overseen by an appointed team with no ties or affiliations to the public sector to eliminate all jobs in which people are receiving a salary but do not report to work.

Slashing spending on social programs: This has already been done with disastrous consequences for the disabled population.

Cuts in healthcare expenditure: The electronic auction for pharmaceuticals proved how many add-on costs there were in the procurement process, so put all contracts out to bid to eliminate the fraud and abuse that has bankrupted our healthcare system.

Lowering of defense costs: Review all contracts and re-negotiate any that have built-in costs as a result of fraud and abuse. We cannot afford another submarine-like scandal.

To achieve this, Papademos will have to establish a level of harmony and cooperation between the three parties in his interim government that has been lacking so far.

Simple really. Tell them to get on board or they will be replaced by individuals selected by the PM to carry out the tasks at hand. As to the remaining MPs, put them on work furlough status, reduce their salaries by the same percentage as the bond holders haircut, in addition to eliminating all of their extraneous perks like automobiles, mobile phones, staff, etc. The reason for this is obvious — since they will not be working full-time they should not be paid full-time. The furloughed MPs shouldn’t have a problem with this as they voted to do the same to thousands of public sector employees.

Jonathan Reynik

The ongoing tale of the two prosecutors…

Let me see if I can summarize the story of the two prosecutors so far…

The government passes a law that establishes a branch of special prosecutors whose job it is to tackle financial crimes and tax evasion.

Then within months, the government passes another bill transferring this function to another branch of government with a different set of people. Essentially, starting from scratch, losing whatever corporate memory and impetus has been established so far.

Meanwhile, these special prosecutors resign citing a) political and other interference, b) that they are given almost no administrative nor technical infrastructure with which to do their jobs, and c) the fact that their role would eventually be be moved to another branch anyway, so why bother proceeding. However, their accusations are vague, and they bizarrely, refuse go down the ?vulgar path of naming names.? Effectively aiding and abetting those who would be sabotaging them.

Meanwhile, a supreme court prosecutor is established to look into their accusation, and within a few days, closes the investigation, citing ?over exuberance and sensitivity?.

Meanwhile, the government retracts the bill that would have moved their function to another branch. The two prosecutors are dumbfounded by this, explaining that they had been given 5 days to produce evidence and the 5 days weren?t up yet.

I can?t wait to see what turn the story will take tomorrow.

So the moral of this story is that if I were a member of the troika oversight committee, I would be running, not walking, back to my bosses in Brussels, or Washington, or Frankfurt and telling them to tear up the cheques. I would tell them that the Greek state is hopelessly in disarray, that the government governs by reflex or by impulse, and that it simply cannot organize itself into a functioning entity. So tightly wound is this ball of inconsistencies and mutually reinforcing incompetence at all levels and in all sectors that there?s simply no place from where one can grab a loose thread and unravel it. It?s lamentable. Period.

Nick Kanellos

A default and a Euro-exit are two separate issues

I fail to understand why a possible default of Greece is equated with an exit from the Eurozone. I would argue that those are 2 separate issues.

A default by Greece may very well happen; a Euro exit cannot happen, at least not very easily (and certainly not automatically). EU treaties provide neither for the expulsion of a country from the Eurozone nor for a country?s voluntary retreat.

Greece might be better off today if she had never given up the drachma and she might be better off if she returned to the drachma at some point in the future when stability has returned. However, a Euro exit at this point, particularly an uncontrolled one, would bring havoc upon the country.

A default is not the end of the world if one deals with it properly and responsibly (Greece has been in default for more than half the time since her independence). The major difference with the present rescue effort is that the debt rescheduling following a default is no longer voluntary; it is mandatory and it has to be negotiated with existing creditors (risk takers remain risk carriers).

Large European banks will be in trouble? Perhaps, but that is not Greece’s problem. CDS traders will be in trouble? Perhaps, but that is not Greece’s problem.

The Greek banking sector will collapse because of a run on banks? Not if deposits are frozen for the duration of the rescheduling negotiations.

Greece won’t be able to pay salaries and/or pensions in case of a default? I doubt that very much. First, the government will certainly have put aside enough Euros to finance day-to-day operations for some time and, secondly, if Greece negotiates a rescheduling in good faith, she will probably receive bridge financing from the EU in the meantime.

The major problem with a default is that it wrecks a country’s creditworthiness and makes it impossible for a country to return to capital markets for quite some time. Well, Greece has already paid that price.

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Prosecutors claims re-examined

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of the Supremes in your issue today I wonder how many euros the Supreme court is costing.

According to some research there are three Supreme Courts in Greece.

The Arios Pagos consists of the President, Attorney General, 10 Vice Presidents, 55 Aeropagites and 14 deputy Attorney Generals. In addition we have according to the 1975 Constitution the Special Supreme Court with an additional 11 members and third Supreme Court which handles criminal activities of past and present members of the government.

All of the above are appointed for life and all three courts? decisions are binding.

Population almost 11 million according to the latest census.

If we compare this to the U.S., we find one Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 8 Associate justices along with 9 officers. They are named by the president and they are either accepted or rejected by Congress on an open public forum.

Population 300,000,000 plus.

The question now is who appoints these Supremes in Greece and what qualifies them for the job? How many associates, officers and assistants does each one have?

Last but not least what has the third Special Supreme Court accomplished in the last 30 or so many years and how many cases have they investigated, heard or decided?

In view of their thunderous response of the last few days it is only fair we look into their activities and find out more about our Judicial system.

Monica Lane

Florida

Re: Mosque in Athens

Archbishop Seraphim of Piraeus has called for a halt to the construction of a mosque in central Athens citing the huge cost and the cohesion of the Greek people in central Athens.

According to the US state Department on religious affairs 2011 there an estimated 200,000 Muslims in Athens, nearly all illegals, primarily from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The problem here is Dublin II, which PASOK signed in 2003 and keeps these people trapped in Greece, as Greece was not their first-choice EU destination. Now the Muslim Association of Greece (MAG) is calling for a mosque at a cost of $12 million euros of Greek tax payers? money in a difficult economic climate.

What should be happening is most illegals should be deported on EU funds for illegal entry and the permanent Muslims, which is a vey small percentage, should be given the opportunity to build a mosque with their own funds away from the city centre.

It is also ironic for the EU to be calling for Athens to build a mosque and yet keep silent on Saudi Arabia (the home of Islam), which has a ban on Christianity.

George Salamouras

Village hopping in the Corinthian highlands

My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful stay in this area just over a year ago, visiting her adorable cousins, her father?s brother and sister and travelling across a very beautiful part of Ellada.

Partying in Xylocastro at night and what partying they have.

Visiting Ancient Corinth and seeing how her cousins live in an area where they must go away from their home to get fresh water.

And wondering why it seems that no one has ever swum the Corinth Canal. What an amazing tourism opportunity yet to be realised. As a one time Australian Navy diver, I?d love to try out that 6.4 km distance.

But to every one else, this area is a gem waiting for you to discover it. And when you do go down there, say hello to cousin Spiros for me and tell him that I do wish to return.

Ange Kenos

Metro lines

I find something hard to believe in your report about the Metro lines? (lines 2