OPINION

On LAOS, chaos, the euro, the economy

A (sort of) easy way of collecting money and creating jobs

Yesterday?s paper stated that ?Sources told Kathimerini that only 1 percent of the 8.6 billion euros has in fact been collected, meaning that less than 100 million euros has entered public coffers.? This is truly unbelievable!

There?s something that is not only bewildering but also puzzling in Greece (especially during these economic woes): the lack or will to collect indirect taxes or revenue (which are ?probably (hopefully) easier? to implement than a lot of troika?s demands).

1) Similar to every industrialized city in the world (from London to L.A. to Singapore to Munich — let?s not reinvent the wheel here): hire an unbelievable amount of parking enforcement officers (not police officers — this could also be taken care of by private companies for that matter) in order to clamp down on illegal parking across Attica and Thessaloniki (and across Greece). This would result in, amongst other, (i) revenue for municipalities; (ii) parking enforcement officer jobs for people across the country (profitable for the state as well); (iii) towing jobs (in order to enforce the parking violations); and (it seems a less important issue for Greeks) more liveable cities to live in. Police officers (who can?t be bothered at this time) should be stripped of the right to issue parking tickets.

2) Sunday shopping: this needs to be tackled: Greece enjoys only a 4- to (tops) 5-month summer tourist period, yet when you travel to Greece no high street shops (except tourist shops), no supermarkets (except convenience stores), no petrol stations (except a couple in a medium-sized city) are open on Sunday. This needs to change. Not only would it create thousands of jobs but it would bring in an enormous amount of revenue for the state (from VAT to income tax from companies and individuals). Locals and more importantly tourists would be able to flock to malls and high street shops every day of the week. Obviously the state would have to fight off the Church and the unions (but desperate times call for desperate measures).

3) Speeding tickets: I once met a Turk that said he loved driving in Greece due to the fact he could really ?test drive? his car on the highways without ever worrying of being pulled over. This might be an exaggeration but having driven extensively on Greek motorways, I tend to agree with that statement to a very large extent. It?s time for Greece to be more akin to New Jersey State Troopers on the Garden State turnpike (where they are merciless: if you?re from out-of-state you pay the fine on the spot/at the police station; this could be applied for everyone driving on Greek roads — nationals and foreigners) than Egypt. Not only will the state be able to collect revenue from speeding tickets, it would also make the roads much safer.

These are just a few examples of how the Greek state could collect some very badly needed revenue (I assure you there are a lot more).

Mann Dunlop

Vienna, Austria

Re: ?Politicians of the Drachma era? by Alexis Papachelos

Dear Mr Papachelas,

The EU and even the IMF have complete zero trust in Greek politicians. We cannot say we will replace all the politicians because that simply is a dream world scenario that is not attainable. Greece made serious mistakes. Not like Italy or Portugal or even Ireland. Greece was totally mismanaged on a criminal level. So Greece is simply not fit to be in any relationship with any other countries. Greece needs to modernize to the level by where it is impeccable and with integrity that is unquestioned by anyone else. I mean we don?t need Enron people in Greek politics. There are some very good people in Greece but they are a minority. Greek society from birth to death needs to learn to think differently. It?s not a happy marriage between Greece and the EU and so the only option for Greece is to quit the marriage and go its own way at this point.

Maybe in a generation or two Greece will produce those kind of people that are impeccable as politicians and then maybe Greece can reapply for entry into the EU.

At this point most of the countries in the EU are fed up with Greece and want it out. So go.

Albert Insinger

Time to cut Greece loose?

I have watched the Greek crisis closely since its beginning in the Fall of 2009. My view was always that this is a historic opportunity for the country. Essentially you have a country that is doing a lot of things wrong (widespread tax evasion, bribery/corruption, unions creating an environment that strangles business, everyone working for a bloated public sector, etc., etc.) and has never had what it takes to fix these problems. Then, finally, the crisis comes along and the people are forced to change, forced to do the right thing… forced to become better!

I believed that ultimately the people of Greece would make the rational choice. They would see that they have two options. One of painful reform followed by a better future (in the euro). The other of national failure and retention of a dysfunctional economic culture. I thought that surely these people would be rational enough to choose the right path. More and more now I am forced to conclude that this will not happen.

I hope I am wrong, but more and more I conclude Greece is a perpetually dysfunctional country. If you leave the euro, you refuse to change and you will remain the same. Greece will belong to the club of Argentina, Afghanistan, etc., countries that are perpetually a mess. It is sad, but unless you seize this historic opportunity, that is your national destiny.

I don’t feel sorry for you Greece. The troika tried to help you, tried to provide the capital to give you the time necessary to undergo reform. And, what do you do? You attack and bite the hand that is literally feeding you. You cannot sustain positive emotions for such a country, the only sentiment that grows is one of disgust.

Good luck to you. What a shame.

Peter O’Hara

Comments in German and Dutch newspapers

Yeia sas, your excellencies, Mr Papademos and Mr Venizelos,

The economical and political comments in the German and Dutch newspapers say what the German and Dutch politician are not saying yet, but probably thinking. If I can do something, also developing relieving ideas for the people of Greece: I think it still could be possible. Do not hesitate to be like Draco and Cleisthenes. You are living in historic and decisive times:

1. As members of the government: show also as much personal austerity as possible, and force the members of the Parliament to do the same. Reduce your wages as much as possible. Walk from your home to your ministries if possible, or take the bus or metro! It is the gesture that matters.

2. Arrest those who took their illegal money/black money abroad if they still are in Greece. Keep them arrested until they bring back the money, confiscating their property.

3. Weed out once and for all the ?fakelaki,? everywhere, from the top down to the bottom.

4. Continue with an independent government after the elections and let the political parties take their responsibility.

5. All the present political parties, PASOK, ND, KKE and LAOS, including the trade unions, can be blamed for the present political, moral, social, economical and financial crisis. Force them openly to sign for a new future of Greece. Do not give them the chance to hide behind slogans.

6. A reduction of state-paid people really has to take place. Being in Greece I see three people doing the work for one. May be I could advise in ways of reorganisation, and in giving them alternatives. (In Holland sometimes there is a similar situation, especially in municipalities. The work of two people can be done by one. I do the same work in 2.5 days as my colleagues are doing in 5 days, when I am hired for interim support).

7. Start real talks for privatisation of government-owned companies with strategic buyers. If you invite German potential buyers you can force Germany to continue financial support.

8. Start a further program of green/solar/wind- energy, and a program of a better way of handling the waist and garbage, instead of putting it in landfills. From Holland we can help you. Get EU money for such programs, and put the released/fired people there for working.

9. Start more programs for reforesting, biological agriculture, social housing (as I offered to the Municipality of Hania, but never got an answer) and then get EU money.

10. Improve in all possible ways your communication with the other EC countries, with newspapers abroad, and with your friends in Europe. Now your ministries and your own secretary offices are black holes, where e-mails disappear.

Sincerely,

Drs Theo Elsing

Holland

Re: Mr. Iskrov statement

When the bankers start reassuring their customers that there is sufficient liquidity, it usually means than a run on the banks is coming.

I closed my mother’s bank account in the Greek First Post Bank and moved the money into the German Reiffeisen Bank last November because I have no intention to have my money seized when the Greek bank nationalization happens soon, just as many Greeks did with their deposits in Greece. Most Bulgarians did the same. We all know how this is going to end so Mr Iskrov can simply shut up, he is not able to mislead anybody.

Best Regards,

Teodora Ivanova Chasse

Maine, USA

Reject the bailout

I am an American citizen who lived in Greece for three years in the 1990s. While Greece is European, what made Greece special to me was the refreshing outlook on life possessed by Greek people. Greeks are not German. Do not destroy Greece to save the bankers. I urge the people of Greece to reject the bailout.

Sincerely,

Monroe

Greek Economy

As a Dane I am against we from Denmark paying for the Greek way of living, saying you spend 140% of what you earn, and doing that for many years — and every Greek knows it.

The best solution for Greece is to start from scratch again. You must go bankrupt It is best for you and also for us in the rest of Europe, because next time we will need to pay for Italy, Spain, Portugal.

Can someone tell me why is it only countries in the south of Europe having these problems? is it something with culture or what is the problem?

We from the rest of Europe will not continue to pay for your economic problems.

Kim Stenberg

Connecting up the dots

Today I read a really beautiful article in E-Kathimerini on travelling through Thesprotia. It was a beautiful article accompanied by a beautiful photo. This is the area of Greece where I spent my holidays as an adolescent. Enough said.

Then I read an article in the business section on ?Building the Rotterdam of the South.? This article reminded me of another article about ?Greek Sport in Freefall? about the sad state of the Greek Olympic facilities. Then there was something that a contributor had said about the wonders of Hellenic aerospace. And the fact that Greek agricultural exports are doing wonderfully well.

My final impression was of something about ?Flashes of Civilisation?.

How for instance there are groups and individuals who are achieving wonderful things within the general context of the downward spiral. I don’t doubt this is the case. For example Greece came 29th in the list of countries producing scientific research papers, somesuch figure. There are plenty of lists and indices where Greece figures not so badly.

The problem with these indices and indications of progress is that they are all isolated events, however brilliant and noteworthy they may be.

We are no longer really living in a culture where isolated brilliance really counts for much. Plato and Aristotle on their own really wouldn’t have much of an impact on our modern culture unless they could work together as a team. What countries and nations need to learn is to join up the dots, to get all the brilliant things working together to enable more brilliant things to happen. Greece is not the only country where the dots are not always joined together. It is well-known that Tony Blair once introduced the apparently novel concept into British government of ?joined up thinking.?

It is not that the British are so much better than the Greeks at doing things together and joined up, they just have more resources with which to descend more gracefully. Far more resources in fact. In terms of population, resources and depths of socio-economic possibility, the British have a lot further to fall and therefore a lot more space in which to pull themselves up again by learning from their mistakes if they choose to do so.

The Greeks have neither the population nor the resources and therefore not the space in which to accomplish the same learning process. All these flashes of brilliance that undoubtedly occur in Greece are individualistic phenomena that unfortunately have no chance, given the penchant of Greeks to act individualistically, of ever being joined together to form a coherent progression in an upward direction. That is the problem: Greeks do not act together and do not work together. It is the Greek ?daimonio?. Greeks have not truly acted together or worked together outside of a wartime situation in their history. They don’t join the dots connecting the beauties of Thesprotia, with the development of ?the Rotterdam of the South?, with the wonders of Hellenic aerospace, with the success of Greek agricultural exports and so forth. Where is the connection that makes these all into a giant surge forward that will take the economy with it? And where is the connection that will make the number of research papers published by Greek scientific institutes relevant to Greek economic development?

Even with all the debt creating bailouts going into Greece to no good purpose except life-support, without a connected and joined up attitude of mind towards economic realities and research and development for a better economy, Greece will proceed downwards and all she will have to show for any progression will be those flashes of civilisation. These although brilliant in themselves would seem to be a practical terms irrelevant to the main event. Only Greeks coming together to work together can make those flashes of civilisation coherent enough to make a difference.

Philip Andrews

Changes need to start from the very top

Greek society will never change unless ordinary Greeks see changes happening at the top. For example, why does Greece need 300 Parliamentarians who are on minimum wage of 10,000 euros per month? Constitutionally they can reduce the size of Parliament to 200 members. Why is the 82-year-old Greek president on 1.7 million euros over 5 years? Given Greece’s current economic crisis these are the questions we should be asking.

Ordinary Greek people did not start the crisis yet they are being asked to do the major sacrifices. Will Greek politicians take a 50% pay cut on their wages? The masses should be lining up in front of Parliament on a daily basis demanding changes at the top. Even KKE secretary Aleka Papariga is on a personal wage of 120,000 euros a year. Can you believe a communist would get this much money and all she does is tell her supporters to go out and strike.

The troika for their part turn a blind eye to the above issues yet they do not realise the bitterness most Greeks have regarding the political system. Troika should also demand changes at the top to set the example for others to follow.

George Salamouras

Australia

The huge cost of Illegal immigration to Greece

Dear Editor,

Greece is the largest EU transit point for illegal immigrants heading for the EU. Because of the Dublin II Regulation treaty which PASOK signed in 2003, illegal immigrants who claim ?asylum? are not allowed to move on to other EU destinations. Most of these illegal immigrants end up in Athens forming inner city ghettos.

According to Health Minister Andreas Loverdos illegal immigration has cost the Greek health system 400 million euros in the last 10 years. According to the Interior Ministry most crimes in Athens are committed by illegal immigrants. Hundreds of millions of Euros (remittances) are going the other way to places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Albania. There is also an illegal street trade of counterfeit and stolen goods which costs the Greek economy millions of Euros in lost revenue.

Greece received 215 million euros between 2007 and 2010 from the EU for immigration measures, while another 90 million euros is earmarked for 2012, subjected to budget approval. The Greek Government should use this EU money to put them on planes back to their country of origin.

On paper Greece has a standing Army of 100,000 personnel. Why are these troops not better utilised for border protection along the Greek-Turkish borders and along the Greek-Albanian borders?

Instead of targeting Greek Pensioners and honest Greek taxpayers to get Greece out of the economic crisis why does the Greek Government not make illegal immigration the number one priority which will save the country hundreds of millions of euros each year?

Anyone who is in Greece illegally needs to be deported.

Sincerely,

George Salamouras

Australia

The Greek mentality and the debt crisis

Since the beginning I was observing the so-called Greek crisis, euro crisis and so on.

1. Greeks have an inclination like many other peoples to blame others for their mistakes.

2. Greek historians and politicians should really inform their people about their history. It was not only a freedom fight against the Ottoman Empire. The Greek national movement was also an instrument of France, Britain and Russia to weaken the Ottoman Empire. They got a Bavarian king and British money and the state went bankrupt at the end of the 19th century.

3. Before Christian Greeks and Armenians were killed, Muslims were killed on the territory which later became Greece.

4. In the Balkan wars Greece behaved as lousy as any other aggressor state.

5. Britain and France financed the attack on Turkey after WW I. Greek troops advanced up to Ankara and were then beaten and as a reaction Smyrna (Izmir) war burnt down. My Greek friends with the exception of KKE followers think it was a just war.

6. Greeks bravely defended their country against Italy but had no chance against the German Army. I absolutely agree that Germany should pay more reparations than it did. But Greece preferred in the 50s to be part of the anticommunist coalition after WW II and the civil war. This has to be seen in the context with the stop of denazification of Germany in order to get a new German army as ally against the Soviets. The Greek government already betrayed you then of your rights.

7. Already in 1948 there was a CIA report on Greece and whether the US should support Greece. The report came to the conclusion that Greece was a totally corrupt state but it was an ally in the fight against communism.

8. In the 90s your political elite indoctrinated Greeks all over the world with anti-Macedonian propaganda. Do you really think [FYROM] is going to attack you. Do you really think that [FYROM] is robbing your history. The history of ancient Greece has been adopted by the whole of Western civilization. My teacher in history was always part of the Macedonian army when they beat the Persians and advanced to India. (In the meantime I don’t think much of wars)

9. Your ruling elite behave like robbers. Look at the homophobic and anti-Semitic LAOS leader Karatzaferis, who is the richest Greek party leader. He earns more than 200,000 euro p/annum.

10. Please don’t make Angela Merkel a second Hitler. Greeks and Germans should know what fascism means. I sing together with my Greek friends ?To Akkordeon» and the last line goes «den tha pera, dhen tha perasi o fasismos».

11. Start a campaign all over Europe to force especially the governments of Germany, Britain and Switzerland to help to detect the 200 billions of Greek money illegally transferred to these countries.

12. Start a campaign to create town-partnerships in all European countries to help you build up a working local administration. We have a Greek association in our town. I will ask them whether they are prepared to talk to our mayor to find a good Greek partner town. We have 13,000 inhabitants.

13. Let’s solve the problems in the spirit of mutual understanding.

I end this letter in Esperanto: Mi sendas al vi miajn plej bonajn bondezirojn (I send you my best wishes)

Otto Kern

Economist

Greece today

The dream of the anarchist as well as of extreme left or right parties is exactly what is happening in Greece today.

And the most surprising thing is that just because PASOK and LAOS have lost a lot of ?voting intention? — but it can be partly a temporary vote of protest — LAOS resigns from government while maybe as many as 20 PASOK MPs also are quitting, not to be found anywhere near the unpopular measures the Greek PM has been waiting to pass, with each wait endangering all the country’s citizens more.

Without the current bailout who will pay for anything at all? So it is truly surreal to see politicians thinking about their re-election when it is even a little doubtful the Bank of Greece will have the time or means to replace the euro, while the price of life will shoot up instantly by 70% and a huge number of people who entrusted the State will be not only loosing their entire salaries but their pensions as well.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Greece and the Germans

We have been nice to you, we tried to help. We gave billions of euros. You just took it and spent it. You burnt our flags. Maybe its time we burn your flags and teach you respect.

Bulette Kartoffel

Painful medicine

Any option other than continued austerity and a revamping of the Greek state and Greek nation away from its chaotic brand of socialism will be pure suicide. All other options have different shades of horribleness but all will lead to a fundamental inability to supply enough food to feed the nation.

Democratically elected leaders need to suspend Greek democracy until this nightmare is over. The military and police have to work together to end all violent dissension. The tolerance for Marxists, anarchists, violent protests and strikes must end — time for marshal law. Unions must be disbanded and all union leaders espousing strikes, violence or insurrection must be forcibly removed for treason. Marxist and anarchist organizers espousing violence or overthrow of the state should be forcibly removed for treason.

The goal of the government is to meet the troika conditions, keep the economy from bankruptcy, keep the streets safe and, above all, keep the country from starving or lacking basic shelter. All unemployed men and women in good health must be kept occupied by the government in return for a minor stipend, decent food and, where necessary, shelter. They should be kept occupied principally by growing food on all undeveloped land for later harvesting and distribution. They should be used to clean public spaces and maintain and improve the national parks and tourist sites. They should be trained in needed skills where there are shortages.

Emigration, unfortunately, should be encouraged. Canada, for example, desperately needs people.

The government needs to tell the truth about how dire the situation is and demand national unity. Everyone needs to pull together to save this great country and restore its dignity and pride. The days of looking at the past and complaining and blaming are over. Its time to get to work.

John Luccianno

Re: PM presents stark choices between bailout and default

Mr Papademos has said that if Greece would be forced to leave the euro it would lead to misery, unemployment, instability and depression. We already have that in Greece.

If Greece want to stay in the euro, it will mean unemployment will stay high, meaning it will stay above 15% for ever or till Greece makes its own Mercedes-Benz factories etc. Which won?t happen. Greece cannot compete in the EU.

The other euro members don?t like Greece. So it is not a happy marriage so to speak. It would be wiser for Greece therefore to leave the euro.

If Greece leaves the euro and goes back to the drachma, at once it is master of its own affairs again. Meaning it can print up as much as its wants or needs. So yes you would get high inflation but also full employment again. High inflation erodes money, but if everyone is employed again it matters little since wages can be readjusted upwards. The drachma would be worth less and less regarding the US$ or euro so that means it would export more and would have more tourism. So more income. Yes it would be expensive to buy goods form outside of Greece. But the Greeks would be happy again the tavernas would be full again.

The course Papademos is taking is irresponsible and unwise and it will hurt the Greek person for decades to come.

Elroy Huckelberry

Re: PM presents stark choice between bailout, default

Greeks get to keep what they own if they declare bankruptcy and if the rest of EU insisted they can exit the sham that has brought Greece to this day. In their miserable greed the Germans and IMF want to take over everything Greeks own. This country can have a healthy income just from tourists alone particularly if you get rich Chinese and Indians to visit. Declare bankruptcy and tell them to buzz off.

Ansar Shawr

Why no cuts to politicians?

A cabinet of 45 ministers and deputy ministers is a perfect example of feather bedding and overmanning. Symbolism matters and a cut of 70 percent in bodies would be a perfect start. Next a cut of 40 percent in politicians? salaries and benefits and pensions would show exemplary solidarity with the Greek population. If the EU wants action and a show of good faith let the politicians lead by being the first to feel the blows.

Damir Susnjar

Re: ?One way to save the country and current developments?

I read your recent comment: ?One way to save the country? some time ago. I fully agree with the conclusion about a non selfish, non-populistic, but solution oriented and long-term (no short term individual and political gains) oriented big and broad coalition as recipe to solve the crisis. Yesterday I heard one of the bosses of one of the leading political parties say ?I am a strong negotiator, I am not interested in the fact that the people do not understand me ??

I have a strong recommendation for the people of Greece; cancel your membership of political parties and your membership of unions. Do not pay your membership anymore! Mention the reason of your cancellation; ?I want a solution for the crisis, now.? The last wake-up call for the establishment. And start to support a new and young political visionary leader or movement (party or union) not tied to the history and establishment of the last 50 years or so, which mobilises strengths, qualities and realises change! In every area. It is time to say farewell to a ?fragmented? Greece. You know the saying; united we stand (and survive) and divided we fall (in all aspects). Show the world, the people of Greece want change and a future! Within or outside an EU. Show the Greek pride and act! And show the EU the real problem; not the Greeks but the Greek establishment; political parties and unions — which keep dividing Greece, playing power games — and are not interested in implementing change — for obvious reasons.

Andre Vogels

The Netherlands

Re: Karatzaferis

The LAOS chief says Mrs. Merkel wants to dominate Southern Europeans because she has a thick wallet. Mrs. Merkel’s wallet is precisely the wallet Mr. Karatzaferis wants to put his fingers into to take Mrs. Merkel’s money. And he complains that Mrs. Merkel, not unwilling to let him put his fingers into her wallet in principle, wants to to tell him conditions under which he is entitled to get her money. This infringes on Greek sovereignty, he thinks.

What should we think of Mr. Karatzaferis’s way of thinking? Is it impudent, totally crazy, or just involuntarily comic? Or a mixture of all three?

If Switzerland were in the EU, Greece, having such politicians, would not get one single cent of aid.

Stiller Heinz

Berne, Switzerland

Shame on you!

We do remember those heroic Greek partisans even in Finland but what was that when you or you leaders were asking if you could get in to EEC?

Now it is time, finally, to pay and you are striking for fun and forgetting that you have had your elections where you gave your vote. You are very proudly telling us, other Europeans, that you are behind this modern «democratic» system, flying to your nice islands on our money for voting.

And still we Finns love you. Why? Ouzo, charred lamb steaks, moussaka, love and sun.

Next summer we are flying to your islands like nothing has happened. Lucky you.

We will save you, you Greeks.

Mikko The Finn

Conflict

“Conflict of the forces of progress and reaction» is essential to coherent evolution. The problems Greece and the rest of us face derive precisely from favouring ?progress? over reaction.

Nicholas Wibberley

Re: Thessaloniki metro bidders selected for second phase

How is this possible when we don’t have money to pay for food for our children!

Jane Crow

Preveza