OPINION

Entrepreneurship gap, negotiation deadlines, Germany, changes to tax system

The entrepreneurship gap in Greece

Greece has always been a country with a large number of small businesses and self-employed citizens (close to 20% of the working population) when compared to the majority of its European Union partners. This information alone would make one think that a major factor for economic development is there, if we are to assume that people are, by and large, willing to take risks, aspire to prosper and attain a higher social and economic status and keep their antennas extended in search of opportunities in their environment. Nothing is further from the truth. The innumerable obstacles that small business owners and the self-employed are facing are by no means a negligible part and can?t be overlooked. Many times in their careers, these entrepreneurs see themselves fighting an unwinnable war against the monster called state bureaucracy, which imposes its will on the little people, in ways that defy any sense or logic. And although there is much to be said about the adverse economic conditions, the institutional environment and other important impediments to the work of entrepreneurs and the self-employed, the fundamental issue comes down to the individual per se. The literature, both popular and academic, is replete with examples of people who succeeded in business, only after hard work and perseverance. Successful entrepreneurs don?t get to be that way in some magic way. They face as many problems as the businessman next door, but they manage the situation more effectively. They don?t wait for things to happen, they make them happen, opting for what Peters and Waterman said, ?Ready, shoot, aim?. If you miss you try again. (In Search of Excellence, 1982). It is this kind of spirit that needs to be fostered in Greece, an entrepreneurial spirit, that makes risk a — not such a terrible — thing, that allows creativity and novelty without the fear of punishment (formal or informal). Greek entrepreneurship is problematic because it is necessity-based rather than opportunity-driven. This is the malaise of the country?s economy, a very large number of ?me too? product and services peddlers with complete disregard to the concept of value for money. When a business objective is to secure me a job, as is the case in most necessity-based small businesses, the society has very little to expect from this business in terms of wealth development and new job creation.

Many specialists argue that a crisis of the magnitude of the Great Recession can mark the beginning of a transformation, not only economic but also cultural. History shows that economic cycles recur time and again, but cultural changes are those that have a lasting effect, as we have seen in such cases such as the post-war Japan, Finland, Singapore etc.

It is the job of the opinion leaders of Greece, firstly, as well as the school system, the political system in its entirety and the media, to infuse the Greek people and especially the youth with precisely those values and attitudes that will propel them to start new innovative businesses, stop fearing the new, acquire the self-confidence they lack and search and exploit any kind of assistance offered by organizations, governments or individuals, very often at no cost.

This, in my opinion, is the one and only sustainable solution to the country?s problem, all other efforts, although necessary, will be simply treating symptoms.

Thank you,

Alexandros G. Sahinidis

Assistant Professor of Management

Technological Education Institute of Athens, Greece

Letter to the paper

Forget Caesar fiddling whilst Rome burnt — Greek politicians and unions have elevated this to a totally new art-form!

I’ve lived and worked in Greece for 2 years now and whilst I love the place dearly, the inability to make a decision, turn up on time or deliver on a commitment has, with a few exceptions, been a constant thread that runs through all aspects of life here.

Simon Roper

Negotiation deadlines

Yields of Italian 10-year bonds are dropping today, European bourses show no signs of panic, although there is a real danger of an imminent Greek bankruptcy. This indicates that a Greek default has been priced in completely; the market relies on palliative measures by the ECB and the EFSF mechanism, as well as by individual donor states.

On the other side, it proves that the blackmailing potential by Greek politicians has been reduced to almost zero. Maneuvering room now consists of saying «Yes, we will comply».

Or die a heroic, if stupid, martyr’s death.

Stiller Heinz

Switzerland

Time is running out, ‘Merkozy’ warn Greece

Dear Greek people,

Don’t let yourselves be blackmailed by arrogant politicians from Western Europe. If Greece defaults, the big gamble bid by the hedge funds will potentially drive their insurers to bankruptcy. Why not let them go down the drain? I say this despite the fact that I have to lose a small amount (but much money for me) in my old-age pension plan. But I have already lost so much money owing to unemployment, I will not fear losing the rest — if only the gamblers are finally battled down.

Pay Merkozy back what they deserve and fight for your democratic sovereignty.

Wishing you all the best,

Dagmar Brandt

Germany

Changes to tax system put on hold

Once upon a time there was a TV show in the States where participants were choosing Door number 1, 2 or 3 for a prize hidden behind one of those doors.

No one knew what was behind each door and before it was opened they had one chance to change their minds and choose a different one. Whatever they found behind the door they chose was theirs to keep.

This article reminded me of that show. What all these «leaders» and would-be leaders want is for us to vote for them and find out later what they plan to do about additional, different taxes and how to bleed us dry from a position of authority.

The fact that none of those involved in public life for the last three decades has any shame is proven. What is left for us to decide is when and how we throw all of those bums out of office once and for all.

Monica Lane

Florida US

Merkel refuses to accept Greek bankruptcy

There are two schools of thought on this. Some believe that no matter how painful, we must stay within the euro zone.  The others believe that the sooner we declare bankruptcy, send all the foreign bureaucrats home, lock the doors, take account of what we have and what we lost and start fresh, the better for us in the long run.

This euro adventure did not benefit the country as a whole. In essence the only salaries that were aligned with the euro were those of the public sector. Those working in the private sector saw prices going through the roof while their salaries and pensions did not.

For those of us who used to bring in dollars and get our money’s worth, we saw prices skyrocketing and always wondered how the locals managed.

One way or the other there will be pain. On the euro track we will have foreign bureaucrats who have no idea how we think and function dictate their rules to us.

On a back-to-the-drachma scenario, we will still suffer but we will be able to print money, manage our currency and can generate interest again in tourism and at the same time get serious about exporting our goods abroad and bringing in hard currency.

Either way, it will be a long painful path before we see improvement.

We have ideas and plans and prospects; all we need are politicians who have Greece’s and the Greeks’ interest at heart.

If Diogenes was alive today he would take his lamp and start looking for them.

Monica Lane

Florida US

Greek politicians

I have been reading so many articles regarding the Greek crisis and so much blame has been piled up onto the politicians. It is as if the politicians have descended from Mars and taken over the country. It is as if the Greek people have never liked them, believed in them or voted for them. It is as if they are a special breed or race that has nothing to do with the Greek people. Somehow they managed to take over the country and do the evil deeds.

I understand the need to find the culprits or assign the blame to a person or a group, but I am feeling that this approach is not going to help the Greek people. They have to collectively accept the blame as they have willingly voted these people in over the years and most of them actually benefited from the corrupt system. They have to accept to mend their ways and recreate an efficient and working public service and minimize the influence of the unions and the mentality of using someone else’s money to survive.

I believe that the Greek survival can be achieved by a default and going back to the old currency, as many countries have successfully demonstrated that it will work. Or alternatively stay with the Euro and follow the strict recipe that is forced onto the Greek people. In both options it is going to be extremely tough and my heart goes out to the poor people that will take the brunt of the crisis. But the idea is whatever option is selected it has to be followed through with discipline and the people have to believe in it.

And, yes, get rid of the politicians, but make sure that the new ones will not be the same. This means that the culture of the Greek society has to change and maybe this crisis will be the trigger that will do it.

I wish the best for the Greek people.

Ned Watsons

Greece must overcome its fatalism

When Greeks win back their optimism, they will succeed in their struggle against the debts. Faith, solidarity and hard efforts can lead the country into a better future.

Socrates once made a test: He held a student under water until the student almost drowned. Then he let go and told the student: If you desire something as intensively as you desired air under the water, you will get it.

Socrates has been a messenger from God. He was the first Monotheist in Greece and renewed culture and philosphy. He was a teacher of wisdom like Jesus was. Greece must desire the upswing, then it will come. Greeks must trust in the Lord then he will help.

The press can play an important role if they focus on positive and hope-giving news. This crisis will not be an end but a new beginning and it will pass!

Wolf Stephan

Giving some hope

I am struck that there is no incentive mechanism for the Greek public on a personal level. Only fear and threats. And so everyone hunkers down and protects their little piece of turf, whether that is truck and taxi licenses or limited pharmacy hours. It’s wrong in the abstract, but it’s all you’ve got, so you fight for it, especially with the amounts of testosterone this crisis is flooding everyone with on a daily basis. A very human response.

I would like to see a back end «sweetener» like the bondholders are being wooed with offered to the ordinary Greek. Instead of your pension or salary just being cut, period, that lost salary or pension income should be treated as an investment that the citizen is making in the successful future of Greece. And if certain milestones are met the citizen would see an actual monetary return on his involuntary investment.

The milestones could be economic (GDP growth, debt to GDP ratio improvement, cuts to the overstaffed public sector), political (reduction in cars with chauffeurs for MPs, percentage of voter turnout at elections) or social (number of days lost to strikes, percentage of taxes paid). Then the Greek populace at large would also become creditors of Greece and have investing skin in the game that would be very personal.

This aligning of their interests with the present creditors of Greece could be a psychologically very powerful phenomenon. After all, if you can’t beat the creditors join them. Now they are on the same side and united in wanting Greek progress and no delay would be tolerated. An army of electors wanting constructive change might sweep all before them, whether political dysfunction or corrupt featherbedding.

Of course, this would have to be guaranteed by the EU as Greeks don’t trust their politicians further then they can throw them.

 Some may object: ?where will the money for this come from?» Well that’s the beauty of this idea: no performance, no money. It’s simply a version of profit sharing and if there is no profit you don’t pay out any money. Obviously some of the chief metrics would have to be financial in order to generate ‘profit’. But it is more interesting to have other metrics, as well as clearly financial ones.

The hope is that you align the interests of the majority with where you want them to go. Positive reinforcement vs. negative threats has a much better history of working and finding common interests is an essential tool in all bargaining and dispute resolution.

I hope Greece survives and thrives, but I suspect that the endgame may be brutal. The EU has sought the time for their banks to reduce their holdings of shaky nations’ sovereign debt and that has been already done. They are no longer threatened in Germany or even France. The bonds were bought by hedge funds at about 30 cents on the euro and they are planning a scorched earth approach when the Greeks impose Collective Action clauses to make the voluntary haircut involuntary on everybody. They also own a lot of Greek CDS that will pay off in the event of a default so they are very motivated to make that happen.

What many Greeks may not have realized is that there has been a shift in perception. Whereas a Greek default a year ago might have been seen as catastrophic, which gave Greece leverage, now it is arguably seen as cathartic and necessary. So the EU may be getting ready to throw the Greeks under the bus, in a controlled manner, that actually makes the markets feel that now the gangrenous limb has been severed the rest of the EU body has a much better chance to survive and thrive. And any other nation that is thinking of playing fast and loose will have to think hard while contemplating Greece falling into the abyss.

The trick, of course, is convincing everybody that the Greeks threw themselves in front of the oncoming bus, while everyone was begging them not to do it. Will the Greek politicians bite?

Damir Susnjar

Is it Germany’s fault?

Singing in a Greek choir I feel very uneasy about how the Greek crisis is discussed in my country and I understand Greek calls for war reparations. I absolutely don’t reject that demand. In the choir we sing together not only songs like «Sto Perigiali to kryfo,” “Strose to stroma» or «Annoula» and the like, but also «To akkordeon» and «Mes tou Vosporou to stena”

As an economist who is interested in politics and history I want to tell my Greek friends: Look to Finland! Finland was till 1810 a Swedish and afterwards till 1918 a Russian colony. It had a civil war, was attacked by the Soviet Union in 1939 (the exact circumstances are complicated), attacked in 1941 together with Nazi Germany the Soviet Union. In the face of defeat, Nazi Germany destroyed the northern parts of Finland when German troops retreated. Finland didn’t get reparations from Germany. They tried to do so in 1971 (from the Federal Republic as well as from GDR) .

In the Peace Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1948 Finland lost territories and had to pay reparations, but was not sovietized like other Eastern European countries. More than fifty per cent of Finnish exports went to the Soviet Union and when the Soviet Union collapsed it was another economic catastrophe for the Finns. In the nineties the Finns restructured their economy. An example of the success is Nokia, which before produced cables and rubber boots, but went on to became the world’s leading mobile phone producer.

No other country in Europe spends so much on its military as Greece. It should be a shame for Greece that Turkey is economically doing better than Greece although this neighbour of yours seems to be unable to solve the problem with the Kurds (25% of Turkey’s inhabitants) in a civilized manner.

Some of my Greek friends even think that Macedonia is attacking Greece.

I understand the anti-German feelings in Greece but many other feelings I simply don’t understand. Back to economics: Why can’t your politicians stop illegal money transfers? Why can’t they bring back Greek money from Britain, Germany and Switzerland? I didn’t hear anything about your government asking the abovementioned governments to help. Why up till now do the rich pay so little from their income and assets? Instead, your political elite (they seem to be part of the economic elite) stir up hatred against other people.

I keep my fingers crossed for a successful Greek recovery.

Kern Otto

Herzberg

The truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth….

It is time for the Greek media to start publishing some real journalism, not garbage. Let?s face the truth, tell the people and let the people decide. The situation in Greece is simple; much of the situation has been engineered  through the Franco-German alliance, for the control of Europe. Some facts.

– Greece has energy, an abundance of natural gas within its economic zone

– The Germans need the gas, especially after the law that shut down their nuclear power stations

– The Franco-German alliance has realized they have a growing population, and a small younger population to pay for the pensions, etc. They need to rebuild a huge blue collar business, one which they lost to Turkey, China, India and Brazil, within Europe. Hence comes Greece; turn it into another Bulgaria, whereby people will work for two hundred Euros per month in factories. The new Chinese European Union.

-The low salary of Greeks driven by the IMF, the access to sea ports and access to Europe by train, will allow Greece to be the central distribution hub for the Franco-German industry.

In conclusion, Germany and France will gain a new energy source worth billions, a transportation hub with a very low cost labour pool, all within the European Union. At the same time, allow more and more immigrants into the country, so that when Greeks do not accept the job, the immigrants will.

This is the truth. The solution today is one and only one.

– Pull out of the Euro

– Watch the Euro fall hard against the Dollar

– Make an agreement with China, and borrow dollars. You will win against the conversion rate.

– Pay off the IMF and loans

– Rebuild slowly using money from energy  and tourism

The solution is easy.

Kerry Kay

Dubai

Re: The fanatics mustn’t get their way

Indeed, Mr Papachelas, hatred leads to nothing good and is, in my opinion, a wasted emotion. But one can understand the Greek people, even those who are becoming «extremist» because of the current situation.

They have been and are living with frustration, betrayal, total helplessness; they are losing everything and see the rich hop over the borders with their money; they see a justice system which may as well be nonexistent; they see the rest of the wolrd laughing at them and calling them lazy layabouts when nothing could be further from the truth; they placed their trust in politicians who trod on it with disdain, arrogance and egotism; no-one’s listening to them, no-one wants to hear their troubles; the headless chickens in parliament are running around to save their hides and their banker friends, beg for yet another loan to pay interest on the last one, to extend Greece’s servitude.

Of course you have an obligation to keep the country on its feet, but how can you do this when your politicians keep kicking your people’s feet out from under them? The troika keeps squeezing, like trying to get blood from a rock. I say again, how do they expect an economy to grow when they’ve killed it with ever more taxes, taking from the foolish easy targets and leaving the rich tax evaders to sip cocktails in their new London apartments, or on their yachts in some foreign port?

I’m not even Greek and I feel incredible anger on behalf of the Greek people, so no, I’m not surprised at all that hatred that is showing its head, and with that hatred, dangerous fanaticism.

I don’t think it’s ignorance or stupidity or a sadistic impulse, I think it’s helplessness, desperation, frustration.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

A foreigner in Greece asks, ?Am I alone in wondering…??

Am I alone in wondering whether the protracted negotiations over the terms of the new bailout, and the grandstanding by the right-wing party leaders, is not in part designed to divert attention and hostility away from the people who got us into this mess, i.e. the members of the governments of the last few years, and towards directing it to external targets, such as Merkel and Sarkozy, who are actually lending us the money?

Am I alone in wondering why those politicians who protest so loudly that the demands of our creditors will cause hardship to the Greek people have shown no interest whatsoever in ameliorating this by forcing a reduction in rents, or in forcing the cartels who keep up prices, e.g. in the supermarkets, to stop price fixing?

Am I alone in wondering why the part played in getting to the present state by the ?famous names? in big business, who make their fortunes from tax avoidance and shady deals with their friends the politicians, is never mentioned?

Am I alone in wondering why no prominent politicians, whose crimes are the common currency of the kafenia of the country, are ever arrested?

Am I alone in wondering why any prominent people who are arrested, tried and imprisoned, never seem to stay there for very long, being apparently released on acquisition of a simple doctor?s note?

Am I alone in wondering why, when the factors holding back the Greek economy are so obvious (e.g. the appalling red tape which impedes development and provides opportunities for corrupt civil servants to demand bribes), absolutely nothing at all has been done about it?

Am I alone in wondering why so many among the huge army of people in government employment, which is well known to be a tremendous burden on, and impediment to, the Greece economy, are so little inclined to offer even a modicum of civility to the public which pays their wages? (Try asking the station master at an ETHEL bus terminus why no bus is leaving at or near the time stated on the timetable, or almost any question in a tax office.)

John Tomkinson

Athens

Everyone has a point

The main point here is that Germany’s politicians back in the 50’s used their chance to the maximum benefit. Greece’s politicians on the other hand, being corrupt, incompetent, arrogant and downright crooks, would squander such an opportunity and manipulate it for their petty, ridiculous, outdated party politics.

Greece’s politicians hold much of the blame for the massive suffering, poverty, displacement and inhuman conditions hundreds of thousands are living under.

Greece’s politicians have done more damage to Greece than the Germans did in WWII. Greece’s politicians, being the wretched, sly cowards they are, are now trying to lay the blame on ‘global forces’. They have no shame, no conscience and after this massive crisis has passed, all 300, particularly PASOK and ND members past and present, must be tried for crimes against this country and its people.

They are criminals of the worst kind. Knowingly and consciously destroying the country and decimating the population to this level is equal to war crimes.

These politicians must be brought to justice, if not by the EU, then by the ICC. They must be investigated, and all their family members.

Lionel Luthor

In response to Peter O’Hara

Your analysis, Mr O?Hara, and invitation to Greece to join the modern world is totally unimpressive. The modern world and the ?best proven economic system? of Capitalism which you so disingenuously offer as salvation graphically presents an horrific and miserable example of every mortal thing which is wrong in the world, let alone Greece.

Nation after nation has crumpled into poverty as a direct consequence of the most savage corruption, bribery, threats and immorality. The Capitalist overlords? insatiable quest for more and more to obtain total control of money and power has literally brought nations to their knees — the results are plain to see here in Greece. Whilst savage cuts are meted out on top of previous savagery, the poorest in this country under its capitalist system is forced to pay their masters, the banksters, the corrupt, and the immoral, before they can put food in the mouths of their children.

There is not the slightest effort to collect unpaid taxes from the wealthiest sector of people in this country. As ever, the attack is on the lower echelons, those who provide easy pickings, those who have paid and do pay taxes. Corrupt bankers and their ilk suffer no remorse and face no restrictions or demands for financial payback. They are the parasites on our backs who play and lose financial games using our money. They cream off and pocket rich pickings and leave the poorest to shoulder and pay in full for their irresponsibility.

You are under a great delusion if you think that there is any democracy anywhere.

If you consider that the dubious privilege of being able to vote gives us choices, you are blind to reality. Have you not noticed that the election of a different political party results in yet another dose of what went before — a capitalist system? It offers us an illusion of control with a different name and a different colour, which is as meaningless as our choice of washing powder.

Freedom and democracy not only has to be fought for; it must at all times be defended against the guile of the capitalist class who cannot survive with adequate incomes. Their appetite for never-ending excess can only be achieved by serious impoverishment of the majority. 

Valerie Peach