OPINION

On the euro, tax evasion, competitiveness, reformist vision

Re: ?To euro or not to euro??

Dear editors, thanks for your analysis concerning the question ?To euro or not to euro??

Your conclusion is to euro. And Greece has to make the best out of it now. That’s right. But is Greece able to do so?

Your analysis follows the path of economic arguments. Of course they are important ones. But a country is more than its economy. For me, other important parameters here are the political and social syntax of a country. By syntax I mean the system of how to do things.

In another analysis on this website, the argument was used that when returning to the drachma the political system would not need to change its syntax. This way the Greek political system could continue to dysfunction / keep its power. This article suggested this was not a desirable option. I agree. But is this system able to change its syntax? Even under a stringent euro regime? In your analysis I’m missing arguments pro and con concerning this important question. If this system is not able to change fundamentally, Greece had better return to the drachma. Because staying in the euro zone while continuing with the old political syntax is probably more destructive for Greece than returning to the drachma.

The other important relevant syntax here is the social one. I will not repeat here that Greece has a non-Protestant syntax for how to do things. And that this syntax is as important as the political one when you want to understand the causes of the crisis here. And I will not advise copying the Protestant syntax in today’s Greek settings. Beside the fact that the costs of this syntax are high concerning stress and other modern diseases, it won’t work in a syntax where concepts like time management, process quality and process communication, effectiveness and preventing waste are as rare as olive trees at the North Pole.

In a reaction some time before, I described that most of the Greek processes lose 65 percent or more of their input. The result is that the price of many Greek products are higher compared with the same products in Germany or Holland. So, when Greece has to become more competitive, to me the most important parameter here is not wages but process management. When (only) lowering wages you do want to win the already lost last war.

I agree that if Greece wants to become a strong member of the euro zone the price of its products have to improve. But also here the question that has to be answered is whether Greece is able to do so. And do the Greek people want to do this? Do they really want to close down today’s social syntax? If they don’t want to do this Greece better return to the drachma. Because staying in the euro zone while continuing the old social syntax is probably more destructive for Greece than returning to the drachma.

Maybe some questions for a next analysis concerning whether to euro or not to euro.

Hans van der Schaaf

Tax evaders have friends in high places

As the prosecutor scandal shows, the problem with big-time tax evaders isn?t the means to track the cheaters, but their friends in high places. As long as the usual gang of parasites and lackeys pull the strings in party and state, all of these measures will remain what they are, gimmicks designed to catch the small fish, while the big sharks swim free.

John Stathakis

Competitiveness v ?afentiko? mentality

I must congratulate you Kathimerini on your Comments section. You have two articles, one on why Greece should not leave the Euro, and the consequences if she does, and the other on the question of political vision or lack of such. These are both issues that I and perhaps other readers have asked you to address, and you have done so. Well done and thank you!

I read the article on the euro with interest. It was a well-written article, balanced and objective. I won?t say I agreed or disagreed with it. I could not fault the author?s arguments. However I feel the issue of euro vs drachma is far more involved than purely financial arguments would have us believe.

The issue of competitiveness is far more to do with attitudes and psychology than with wages and salaries. It is to do with Greek ?collective? acceptance of a way out of the Ottoman mindset towards ?something different?. Most Greeks do not and will not ever acknowledge just how Ottoman their state still is. It?s almost a matter of pride, in my view misplaced, to deny this. It is the denial of the remaining and pervasive Ottoman mentality in Greek culture that prevents competitiveness. If Greece had the lowest slave wages in Europe this would still be the case.

The ?afentiko? culture still rules Greece with enormous power. After 500 years of Ottoman rule this is to be expected. And 30 years of European influence are not about to end that. Greece like Russia missed out on socio-cultural developments such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment that so progressed Western-Central European cultures. The Enlightenment led indirectly to socio-economic developments of the 19/20Cs that ?liberated? W. Europe of her monarchical/autocractic ?afentiko? system, and with the assistance of the struggles against Nazism and Communism, gave W. Europe a new view of socio-economic possibilities.

Greece, like the rest of the Ottoman Empire, experienced none of this Enlightenment and progression. You simply experienced continuous conflict after 1821 that left the Ottoman ?afentiko? mentality intact. The afentiko mentality denies you the flexibility and open-mindedness together with responsibility and creativity (initiative taking) to become truly competitive. All of your government and bureacracy and half of your private sector operate on the afentiko principle. The more enlightened remainder struggle to cope or go to the Diaspora. In addition your resource base (primary resources and infrastructure) is so limited you can?t do a lot with it to achieve major reforms of productivity.

Greeks have a lot of catching up to do, about 500 years? worth. IF you have the collective will to do so. This will require more than merely empty political visions and financial life support to achieve. Greeks have not in their history exhibited ?collective will?, except for the 8 months in 1940/41, and that was under an authoritarian regime (Metaxas). It seems to go against their anarchist/conflictual/orientalised grain. Will they learn to act collectively for their own benfit in their present circumstances despite the afentiko system, or will they condemn themselves to a Sisyphean repetition of crisis after crisis while on (permanent?) foreign life support?

Philip Andrews

Re: In search of a leader with reformist vision

Another excellent comment, Mr Papachelas. Like you, I hope for Greece that a ?Messiah? will appear on the political horizon. But what is it going to take to find someone who is not only interested in buying votes, lining his/her nest egg, polishing his/her ego, and someone actually interested in solving problems, putting Greece and its citizens above all else? What has taken 3 to 4 decades to ruin cannot be fixed overnight, that is clear, and the writing is on the wall economically and increasingly socially as well.

Greece is being beaten down to the ground and it?s going to take incredible strength to get back up again, but not on the same old legs. A line needs to be drawn through absolutely every sector of what went ?wrong?: bloated and inefficient civil service, bureaucracy ad nauseam, tax evasion, nepotism, corruption, labour unions owning industries, etc. People basically behaved like spoiled children thinking they could get away with everything. Yes, the politicians spent instead of investing, but it?s done and cannot be reversed — the debts have come home to roost and must be paid. The fact that the euro is a flawed currency is not going to help matters now, the flaws were ignored for too long by everyone in the EU, and Greece is taking the brunt for yet more egotists who wanted to get into the history books, rules be damned.

So what does one do with spoiled children? They are already being punished for way more than they transgressed and yet the problem keeps looming larger and larger. And yet, one solution will have to be strict discipline in absolutely everything, a total rejection and intolerance of anything even vaguely illegal or immoral. It is fine to speak of honour and pride, but these two words have to be re-instilled in every citizen in the real sense of the words, honour to do things legally and for Greece, pride in helping the country get back on its feet. There is too much ?me? in everyone?s minds, i.e. what?s in it for me, what can I gain from it, where else can I cheat the state? It would be so much easier to do the right thing, e.g. tax income would have been sufficient if everyone had complied (tax payers and tax collectors), if bribes weren?t necessary to get something done. Quite simply, how can we expect to have a functioning state, to have infrastructure maintained, a growing economy if no-one wants to pay taxes?

So yes, the citizens have the burden of electing someone who is going to punish them some more, but this someone needs to have what I know the Greek people have: passion!

By voting for someone from old political dynasties, for someone whose lips seem to move an awful lot but say nothing, for someone who promises the world and quick fixes — well, then we can revert to the saying ?you get the government you deserve?.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

Tax evasion

As many others, I follow your coverage of the Greek debt situation closely. What amazes me is that it took the Greek authorities two years to come up with the simple idea of a ?presumed income.? Greece is in the most dire straits. And yet, and yet, the government moves at a glacial pace.

Michael Masuch