OPINION

On the left, pensions, Venizelos, unemployment, German press, the future

Greek pensions

Many of us are more than a little doubtful as to whether these 40,000 Greeks have in fact cheated the pension system. Although during my 35 years here, I have seen and heard many scandals that have left me in awe, I agree with other bloggers here that this would be extremely difficult to maintain without authorities being involved.

I recall, before we first heard of this scam, that a friend of mine received a notice of pension being paid to her aunt. She in fact rang the local office and they informed her that the funds had been paid to her aunt’s bank account direct. At that time she advised the department that it was quite impossible as her aunt?s account had been closed after her death.

At the same time I noticed others stating that citizens had been waiting for two years for their pensions. A lawyer dealing with labour disputes explained to my husband that this was due to the fact that many pensioners had paid into more than one pension scheme. They had worked and so paid into IKA and then opened their own business and paid TEVE. At the same time many needed the two years of national service to be included and this further complicated the matter.

In fact, my husband was advised to forget the IKA payments and go for a pension simply with TEVE, otherwise he would have a very long wait. This is because employees in different insurance offices do not work together and are not concerned as to how long one must wait. I am sure this is correct as I have two friends who have been waiting for their pensions since last April, and are still waiting.

I also had the misfortune of falling into this trap. I applied to the UK pension service for a reduced pension as I am 70 and because I have a business which I cannot sell, or afford to give my shares to my partner. In this case all correspondence is directed to IKA, although my pension here will eventually (hopefully) be paid by TEVE. The UK sent total of 13 letters and phoned me and they received only one reply. It has taken four-and-a-half years for TEVE to forward the simple document necessary to complete my claim. Mainly, this was due to the fact that IKA couldn’t trace my file, which is hardly surprising as they have 20,000 manilla files in Athens office. After many visits to both IKA and TEVE, we eventually found two gentlemen employed by TEVE, in the Omonia Square office. These ‘knights’ had, under their own steam, developed a software program so that they could trace requests. At the same time they followed it up with telephone calls to my TEVE office. Within a week the necessary form was with UK pensions and 48 hours later my first pension was paid.  

Ann Baker

Youth unemployment

Let’s get something clear, once and for all. Youths in Greece don’t work till at least 24. Ok, sure, they work at some bar serving coffee or maybe some other part-time job to supplement mommy and daddy?s allowance. But in general they don’t work! We keep reading that 50% of youths are unemployed and it’s a simple fact that here in Athens at least youths eat their parents? money until they form some kind of career. After they finish school and after they complete their compulsory military training (yes, Greece has that still).

These facts above have nothing to do with the crisis. This is something that has been a part of the culture here for years. So if you read about it, dismiss it as a journalist?s tick.

Hari T

Thank you Kathimerini for your wonderful articles

I truly enjoy reading the letters to the editor of Kathimerini newspaper. As a visitor to Greece, I find most of your commentators to be quite interesting. I give Greece great hope and promise for tomorrow. I wish the Greek people well. Remember that with the troika, your final trial is upon you. But, you Greeks of ancient cloth are ready. Seize your destiny and you will become the powerful Greece that once was of yesteryear.

Kal Elle

Kansas, USA

Mr Tsipras and Bild

I have to congratulate Mr. Tsipras for his criticisms towards Bild even though I think that his lawsuit attempt is ridiculous.

He might be a bit thin-skinned for a politician, but let?s forgive him that for now. He might not be used so far to what politicians have to endure in the international and especially also in the Greek press every day.

Apart from that, Mr. Tsipras understood one thing very well:

Bild and other papers from the Springer press like Die Welt do have a clear political agenda. It is an open secret in Germany that you cannot rule against Bild and Springer. They can make politicians and they can make them stumble. They can influence elections and they can influence public opinion more than any other media group in Germany.

You will rarely find a German politician speaking openly against them.

Die Welt, known as a serious newspaper in Germany, continuously puts negative Greek headlines on top. Even on days where there is nothing new to report you can bet that there will be at least one Greek-bashing article in Die Welt.

It is clear that the Springer press wants Greece to be out of the euro and maybe even out of the EU. This is a fact, and it should concern you as Greeks more than any stupid comment you might have heard from German politicians in the past.

Thanks Mr. Tsipras and I hope you will be as critical with the Greek press as well.

Sebastian Schroeder

Patra

Is Greece a developed country?

In the French «Grand Journal» on BFM TV, the 100% TV news and most serious program at 1.30 a.m., the answer was: The structure of the government, from the awful state of the education system to all the inefficiencies of its economy, points to Greece becoming a contemporary society in 10 years? time. The problem is not just financial even though in the end Greece is likely to default on its entire debt.

In other words, whatever short-lived «victory» is won today, as Mrs Merkel already stated yesterday, Greece will need another cash injection in 2013 and even then — with a new parliament leaning more to the left and not heralding much innovation — Greeks in the best-case scenario must look further down the road to find hope.

Of course the diagnosis is realistic if one believes change will ever emerge from Greek citizens themselves, from individual Greeks asking for quick changes in monstrously useless expenses such as the army, non-existent hospitals when it comes to quality, the pathetic amount of money wasted to sink the economy rather than run the government, etc., etc.

Can one expect progress? I doubt it. For it is a fact that, compared to French TV programs that often violently attack the political establishment at large, the Greek media not only didn’t see the crisis coming, but is much more apt at making general statements of no practical value than clearly defining a recovery path. Jacques de Larosiere, ex-president of FMI, at 2.08 a.m. highlights that the current general effort to restructure the Greek debt is by far the largest he has ever witnessed.

However, one must not lose sight of the fact that this has only been a beginning to dealing with a disastrous politico-economic path. The entire future remains to be built.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Is Greece worth keeping in the eurozone?

According to German Economy Minister Mr Philipp Roesler, there has been failure by Greece to accept Germany?s help on reducing bureaucracy and boosting private investment which is disappointing. Mr Roesler went on to say the fundamental problem in Greece is the structures.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has recently stated that Greece’s problems were of its own making. Mr Schaeuble said he had very open discussions with the Greek government about whether it would be better for it to leave the eurozone. Mr Schaeuble went further by claiming that Greece should have never been allowed to join the eurozone.

In a recent German survey, 63% of Germans said they wanted Greece out of the eurozone. The irony here is that most Greeks in a recent survey said they wanted to remain in the eurozone but without the necessary changes. How could that work?

Current Greek Finance Minister Mr Venizelos has no formal qualifications in finance or economics. In 2011 The Financial Times (FT) elected Mr Venizelos as the worst minister for finance in Europe for 2011. Why was he put in this role?

The German government and other Northern European eurozone members really need to ask themselves: Is keeping Greece in the eurozone in the best interests of their tax payers? Maybe the time has come to cut the umbilical cord and let Greece sort itself out for better or worse in another currency.

George Salamouras

Australia

Re: Ann Baker on the Greek left

I agree with Ann Baker. As I wrote some time ago, the Greeks are permanent revolutionaries. Two-hundred years after attempting to break away from the Ottoman system they are still trying to decide what alternative system to live with/under while remaining culturally/attitudinally largely still Ottoman.

The socialist/Soviet model pursued by the likes of PASOK has the most in common with the old Ottoman model. A rigid hierarchy with the Afentiko at the top giving out orders and his socialist mafia cronies obeying. Much like the Sultan and his court. The Ottomans taxed, fought and spent and kept everyone in line through loyalty to the Sultan. Otherwise they weren’t overly repressive just largely unimaginative, especially in terms of entrepreneurial spirit. They encouraged trade but not innovation.

The (Greek) Socialist model seems a good copy of this.

Greece is ruled by a socialised/communised Ottoman state. Far from being an alien system, the Ottoman borrowed much from the Byzantine. This is why there were no serious Greek revolts against it (except in Crete) for 600 years. Even the people before the Greeks 6,500 years ago are now thought to have come from Anatolia (Luvians). And the ancient Ionians, Dorians and others probably originated from the Ukrainian steppes as nomads.

Greeks have been ruled by oriental-style oligarchies for 6,500 years. And by hierarchies of Oriental Anatolian peoples. Democracy was worked for/manipulated by the oligarchies then as now. Any other version of Greek history is wishful thinking.

We’ve been deluding ourselves with idealised visions of Greek history/mythology for a very long time. The reality is now upon us. Those who forget history or live in sheer terror of it repeating itself (ie Germans), are destined to see it endlessly repeated. Those who act in ignorance of Greek history are destined to be sorely disappointed/disillusioned by how that history gets in the way of everything they try to accomplish in Greece.

Anglo-Americans esp. please take note.

Philip Andrews

Bust

In 5 years? time, Greece will be right back where it started: bust!

Greek politicians are just too stupid, as nothing else can describe their utter incompetence, corruption and arrogance. They created this mother of all crises, and still refuse to change any of their corrupt practices, any of their dealings with corrupt businesses.

How did Mytilineos run up a charge of 85 million euros to the Public Power Corporation?

Lionel Luthor

Re: Political parties fail to ease financial burden

Well, that says it all, doesn’t it? The political parties attempt to sneak through legislation that benefits themselves and only themselves. This one story says everything there is to say about Greece and its current predicament. I think the only lucrative job left in Greece is as a politician. Who else in Greece can write their own checks and pass laws that benefit themselves and only themselves?

Nick Kanellos