OPINION

On ‘Greek fatigue,’ Germany, real estate, euro exit, Reppas, being Western, lawyers, politics

Finally! Someone speaking in plain words! Can a commissioner be classed as a politician? Surely not. I can only hope that Ms Damanaki?s words actually penetrate in Greece and that the somnambulists in the Greek Parliament get what she?s saying. I totally agree — and have been saying so — that it?s not just Greece?s problem or fault, it?s a flawed currency that started the tiny little snowball that has now turned into an avalanche. But the EU was too busy with its endless bureaucracy to notice the real problems that were forming. They?d rather tell farmers how curved (or not) a cucumber is allowed to be, than apply the checks and balances that should have been done. Surely even a first-year accountant would and should have been able to make projections. Or are there no ?what if? scenarios in the EU/ECB? I guess not, if there?s no provision for sovereign default. Or was the attitude ?let?s do this little euro experiment with a small GDP??

Yes, there is fatigue and impatience being felt for Greece, but what about what the Greek people are feeling? And it?s not over yet.

Well done, Ms Damanaki! You?d do well to speak straight to the Greek people, they are tired of hearing the lies and excuses, they would appreciate the truth for a change.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

German tax integrity

German letter-writer Penny Mueller (Jan 10th) takes Greek small businessmen harshly to task for not issuing receipts and compares the evasive attitudes of Greeks with forthright German behaviour. We spend part of the year in Ortenaukreis, Baden-Wurttemberg (Schwarzwald – the Black Forest) where we are property owners and where we often eat in ?Gasthauser? restaurants. At the end of each meal, we are rarely, hardly ever, given a printed cash-register receipt but most often a waitress, waiter or the owner comes to our table with a scratch pad and pencil and scribbles our total on a scrap piece of paper that is left to be discarded. We have experienced these ?scratch-pad receipts? at other small retail stores aside from restaurants in Germany. Tax evasion exists everywhere — although, granted, nowhere is it practised with more (justified) alacrity than in Greece.

Regarding Ms Mueller?s complaint that ?Germans are paying for the Greeks,? on my Commerzbank term account, I receive a yearly interest of less than 1 percent — 0.65% to be exact — yet German banks and the Federal Government in Berlin have lent to Greece at the rate of nearly 5% interest — a rate that I can only dream of. Greece and Germany — who is paying and supporting whom in this case?

Peter Kyriakeas-Kirk

Stoupa, Messinia (und auch in Ettenheim, Ortenaukreis, B-W)

Slump in house prices

With the introduction of the imputed income following the ?illegal builds? fines, I think you may find many expats living in Greece will return back to their home countries and either sell their houses at low prices out of desperation or leave their houses on the market. This will have a negative effect on local communities and businesses in many locations around Greece and also the housing market in general. Many of the expats have had more than enough of propping up the Greek economy, however much they once loved Greece!

Mary Dunham

Frogs without flies

The words of Miroslav Singer have opened the gates, and for a lesson on what follows look to Constantinople. Fitch managing director David Riley has joined the chorus of those publicly stating that no one expects Greece to make it through this turbulence as a part of the EU. Greece is no longer protected by the nascency of the economic crisis. The hushed-up position that Greece is not anymore a viable member of the EU has now been proclaimed in the public arena. The time to exit this debacle is now, and to clarify, that debacle is the European Union.

To those who fear the immediate economic impact of such an action, would you rather be bled to death, or shot in the head? What does it matter that the country can no longer import electricity, when people cannot pay their electricity bill? The exit of Greece from the EU will no doubt be an immense shock to the current economic system, but it will be the birth of a new one. There will always be creditors willing to lend to Greece, though the amount the country will be able to borrow will no doubt be much less.

The first step towards recovery will be the liberalization of one more occupation, and that is politician. It is time that Greeks took back their political process, and not be discouraged by the stigma associated with the field created by corrupt political dynasties. Then perhaps the administration will actually administer the country.

The second step is to look at the financial situation. If anything has come out of the political and economic discourse of the past couple of years it is that the debt of Greece is not serviceable. Greece must cut spending where it is not logically justifiable. The justification being that the spending will at some point create a return for the country. Two fields which immediately come to mind are military spending and agricultural subsidies. Greece has 394,000 soldiers active and in reserve and a military budget of 7.26 billion Euros in 2009. Is Greece preparing for war? It is mind-boggling that a NATO member with the population size of Greece maintain such a large army. It is time to make the decision that should have been made years ago, although understandably would have been intolerable to the citizens due to the antagonism that flared between Greece and Turkey during that time. That decision is to cut the military and the budget by two-thirds at the very least. ?Women have birth and men have the army? no longer applies to the Greece of today, and it is time that those who insist on such an outdated mindset be shown the light, whether it be through discussion, or the pain of hunger in their stomachs. As for the agricultural sector, everyone wonders why every attempt to get this sector as a whole to behave responsibly and seek efficiency has failed. The answer is the subsidies that have cushioned irresponsible farmers from the effects of their childishness. Cut the subsidies to the farmers and they will coop faster than a rabbit fleeing a hunter.

The final step is to look toward the future and direct the intellectual and economic capital of Greece toward a social and economic revolution. This must first be achieved through a serious consideration of education policy. Though the institutions of higher education in Greece are not perfect, they are not at fault for the lack of vitality in Greek education. It is the parents that do not emphasize education to their children, because they themselves do no understand its importance, and the discouraged Greek students who do not see a point in their efforts when they are surrounded by people constantly looking for the easy way out.

Once education is sorted out and there is a reason for international employers to hire Greek workers, then Greece can look toward encouraging foreign direct investment. A new devalued Greek currency will be the lifeblood of the new economy. Greece will be able to follow an export-led growth strategy, the benefits of which one need only look to Germany for. It will help the ailing agricultural sector by making agricultural goods seem more affordable to Europeans, it will revitalize the vexed tourist industry, though the government should be seeking ways to minimize the reliance on tourism to contribute to GDP, and it will make investment in Greece a less costly option for foreign companies. This last aspect will help offset the idea that investing in Greece is an immense risk, a rumor that will be peddled by speculators following an exit from the union, since the amount of financial capital needed to invest will be lower due to a favorable currency exchange rate. Anyone with eyes can see that the main obstacle to Greece being a developed nation is the lack of industrial infrastructure. As such the focus on FDI should be a great one in the future.

The last thing Greece must avoid is being swept out to sea by the tides of history again. Greece missed the first wave of industrialization that washed over Europe, but it must be prepared for the next one, by having the appropriate physical capital. It is in the interest of the Greek state to see the fruition of solar and hydrokinetic technology, because if Greece has anything in abundance, it is sun and water. Advancement in this field opens new doors for Greece in terms or participating in high value-added manufacturing. This primarily could be achieved through the manufacturing of photovoltaic harvesting technology, and fuel cells for automobiles and buses. Inviting private investors into this venture would help Greece obtain the necessary funding for the development of this type of infrastructure, as well as to help repair the damaged credibility of the Greek state. Greece is not dead. It needs to rise anew. Greece has been lost in the woods, searching for a way out, but now is the time to give up hope of finding a path, and instead create our own.

Andreas Argeros

Student of international political and economic relations at Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York

Re: Minister admits civil service failure

As Mr. Reppas knows exactly what not should be done to improve the performance of Greece, are there any of his suggestions available about implementing austerity measures or economical developement? Hardliners like him are exactly what Greece does not need in these critical times. I think Greek politicians as well as their entourage have not understood at all that time is over for stubborn denial and hollow rhetorics. The EU, IMF, the Troika and the European population are all fed up with delays, excuses and neverending tricks. No reforms were executed in the last 2 years, just antisocial tax games without an increase in earnings, leaving the corrupt structures untouched. The Church generously gives away bread for the poor instead of paying adequate taxes. The tax evasion of the upper class is unchanged. Bureaucracy and unions overrule political decisions whenever they touch their privileges and sinecures. Ideas, let alone plans and structures for economical improvement, are not on the political agenda, monitoring Greek international media.

It makes me sad to see this happen. I think Greece has pushed herself into modern times without growing up to modernity. A little bakshish here and there is no problem in small social structures. Big Euromoney makes big corruption and a fakelaki nightmare. Ottomanic hierarchies and old-boy networks throttle free enterprise and social movements. So there are no real political parties with differing social concepts leading to actual change but just self-service outlets for public revenues. Authorities are treated as backers and/or enemies instead of seeing their position in a way that comes up to contemporary concepts about division of state and church as well as the equal treatment of all citizens and also their duties to the community. Enlightenment still to come!

Yoss Newman

To be or not to be Oriental or Western…

To Vassillis Samolis. Very nice letter, thank you.

?Greeks have a long way to go to become ?Westerners??.

Try losing 600 years of Ottoman culture, then 1,000 years of Byzantine Oriental culture, then before that say 1,000 years of ancient Greek Asia Minor oriental culture and Hellenistic oriental culture. So about 3,000 years of Greek oriental culture altogether.

Then you have to catch up on 500 years of Western European historical development from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and further. Before you Greeks can begin to be Western. Its not just imitating TV shows or Western lifestyle or speaking in tongues. Its ejecting oriental and Ottoman values from the body emotional and cultural of Greek society, itself a hugely painful process, then gradually over generations growing into Western values, integrating them into the way of feeling and thinking and working and living.

When you have achieved all of these then and only then might you deign to call yourselves Westerners because through your inner struggles you will have earned the right to be recognised as such.

Until this moment of Transfiguration and Trasnformation occurs, Greeks will continue to be oriental while pretending to Western lifestyle and values.

Mr Samolis, it?s up to you and all you Greeks how much ?soul effort? you want to put into ‘becoming Western.?

Philip Andrews

Athens lawyers strike

Liberalization will not lead to citizens paying less for legal services; quite the contrary, he claimed.

Another first for Greece! The law of supply and demand does not apply there.

Robert Skailes

Athens lawyers on three-day strike

Just when are the majority of Greek people going to get to grips with the fact that they need to tackle their financial crisis? Resorting to the Greek weakness of strike upon strike will not succeed now.

Jim Pratt

Re: Mixed messages

I agree entirely with Mr. Papachelas’s article. I also hope that he is right and that Mr. Papademos will listen to the majority of the citizens in Greece and implement the necessary measures immediately. What?s past is past, too many mistakes, but now we have to concentrate on the future. It?s quite obvious to most of us (70% if we believe the media) that now we have to stay in the Euro. Why do ND under Mr. Samaras, the PASOK ?Old Boys? Association? and assortment of Communist parliamentarians call for elections when, unless they support the present Government, we won?t receive the loans and therefore we won?t need a Parliament at all. Are they so naive and foolish to even consider that at this present time we have any bargaining powers left? Do they consider that Greece is so important, when in fact it totals 2% of the EU, that they can forever play cat and mouse with the Troika? Do they seriously not understand that the whole world is losing patience with us? How can we expect help from others, if we are not willing to help ourselves? Without the haircuts and loans, Greece will be bankrupt and who will control the situation? Here it has to stop and Mr. Papademos has to move quickly not only to enforce the requests by the EU and the IMF, but to listen to the Greek citizens. Repeatedly we say we want changes and not next year, but now. The major demonstrations have stopped, we are all waiting with hopes fading day by day. If any of the members of the Greek Parliament had any feelings of responsibility towards the Greek public, they would want Mr. Papademos to stay in power at least till the end of the year. To invite the EU to modernise the public sector with completed tax program and reforms. To change completely the legal system which with all the courts and judges doesn?t work. To open up the closed professions. To have one National Health service and pension scheme. Complete a data base of all public workers. Close down non-profitmaking concerns such as TV stations.To assist with the sales of assets. To open up development programs where Greece can legitimately take funding from the EU. To implement the program for deduction of tax on all tourism booked from abroad (this operates very well in Israel) so that we can fill our hotels and at the same time circulate foreign money in the market. To enlarge existing schools and close others so that they can be fully equipped and operate with trained staff. Plus all the basic problems relating to Greek bureaucracy.

Can anybody tell me that either Mr. Samaras or Mr. Papandreou or anyone in our present Parliament has the ability to perform just one of the tasks? They haven?t managed it in 30 years, yet suddenly we are expected to believe in them. In fact if Mr. Papademos reduced our present Parliament to maximum 200, he would be the most popular prime minister of all time.

Ann Baker