OPINION

On the Parthenon Marbles, crisis, private sector, Golden Dawn

Greece is not Iceland or Argentina

Every one loves to point to Iceland or Argentina when it comes to Greece’s economic crisis. Usually that line of reason comes from the anti-austerity crowd who wants to tell the troika to go pound sand for having the audacity to place them on life-support. Why, is beyond me but I think it’s due to a lack of knowledge about those respective countries.

Iceland sits on a block of ice (for all intents and purposes) in the Atlantic Ocean and has a population of 320,000. That is a fraction of the Athens population. They don’t use the Euro. They don’t have an immigrant problem. They don’t have rampant political corruption. Their problem was a banking crisis — it remains a politically and economically stable country. In other words: Not Greece.

Argentina sits on the other side of the world and has a population of 42 million and is about 20x the size of Greece in terms of land. It is a member of the G-15 and G-20. Its GDP is more than double Greece’s. It has a diversified economy with a robust agricultural sector, large manufacturing sector, oil and gas reserves. In other words: Not Greece.

I like poker, so to the anti-Austerity cacophony I call your Iceland and raise you Estonia. Yes, Estonia. No one brings them up but, like Greece, they are a small country in the Eurozone and uses the Euro. With that alone it is far more relevant to Greece’s situation than either of the two examples above.

So what’s going on in Estonia? It runs a budget surplus and has a national debt as percentage of GDP at 6%. In 2008, they experienced a major economic downturn with their economy shrinking by 18% — far more than what has hit Greece. What did they do? Austerity. It sucked. Public sector wages were cut by 10-20%. The retirement age was raised. Job protection — i.e. ability to not get fired — was cut. They invested in technology infrastructure and now all government functions are computerized and utilize the internet. Voting can be done online. As a result, efficiency skyrocketed and created fertile ground for tech start-up businesses. Ever hear of Skype? Yeah, it was founded in Estonia. Oh, by the way they have a flat tax which is attractive to business and decreases the incentive for tax evasion. Compared to Greece’s byzantine and punitive tax laws on everything from gas to property taxes to income taxes it’s no wonder tax evasion is a national sport and foreign companies want nothing to do with it. My favorite recent anectdote is how tax collectors ran out of gas because they couldn’t afford to fill up! ?Idiotcracy?, aka ?Ilithiokratia?, at its finest. Countries in the region like Bulgaria and Turkey are all too happy to capitalize on Greece shooting itself in the foot.

Anyway, the point is that austerity hurt Estonia but it was necessary medicine much like the situation in Greece. No one likes it, it’s not fun, and it hurts. People protested and did not like it, but the funny thing is they re-elected the same people that imposed the austerity measures! Now they are prospering — go figure. The point is I believe these reforms are necessary for Greece to improve. Whether the Greek electorate agrees on June 17th remains to be seen.

N. Galanopoulos

USA

Hanging out the dirty laundry in public

Very slowly, every piece of dirty washing is seeing the light of day in Greece, except the Greek distain for reality and the owning up of those who had a part in undermining Greece.

The corruption in every Greek institution is out in the open or rumored to be.

The consequences of Greek life keeps a secret, like a horror dream, totally avoided as an item of discussion. Like the story that no Greek knew anything about the Greek economy or corruption and everybody is innocent, except theses dark figures in the landscape of Greece.

Ekathemerini may have let the cat out of the bag?

The Greek army has shortages?

The army with one of the biggest budgets in the world?

Every Greek, when he has a few glasses of fire water, will tell you the stories of the most heroic acts that the Greek armed forces are capable off.

I have always had doubts about the Greek armed forces and the culture from a few questions I posed to a few ex-officers and what I had stumbled on in Greece by chance.

What defines the Greek armed forces in my mind was a scene in Athens when the body of an army helicopter pilot was being returned after he crash-landed on a rock in the sea near the Turkish coast. A few thousand people including the world press and TV cameras were there to honor the hero. The aeroplane landed and the two weakest and smallest men in the Greek army attempted to pull out the casket but almost dropped it on the runway. Struggling along with the bearers, with the thousands gathered there, the whole world watching them was praying that they did not drop the casket.

The Greek Army could not organize a simple task when it had all that manpower.

The Greek armed forces are a child of the many governments Greece has had since 1945. I wish I could believe what Greek sources say about its ability, and not what I read and what is on the Internet.

Just as no Greeks ever read or see any reports about the Greek government and economy, all Greeks will say they did not know of the capability of its armed forces, everything is a surprise.

Nothing is ever new!

Did not my uncles walk to the Albanian border armed with axes to meet the tanks and aeroplanes?

Did not my grandparents have to protect themselves from Bulgarian guerrillas with axes and sharpened poles?

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

Golden Dawn

The entire world watched as brute force was used against a woman on live TV by Kasidiaris without any penalty. This video has been replaying daily and Greece’s justice system and political shenanigans have become the laughing stock of the world — way to go, guys. Today it got even better when they showed said creep going into the court not to be charged but to charge the women and TV station for provoking him. Tell me this is not real: we blame the victim in your country? Women can get hit and it’s okay because a man felt threatened. Wow, that’s all I can say.

Rositta Buracas

Subject: Letter to the Editor

The BBC Intelligence Squared debate on Monday night in London highlighted that the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to their rightful Athenian birthplace is long overdue. The winning team, led by Stephen Fry and Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, triumphed in its case for the restitution of the marbles to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, by a margin of 384-125 votes, never ceasing to argue with reason and logic. Whilst the marbles were obtained by British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, with a license issued by the Ottomans, Greece was under occupation at this time — an age of institutionalised and systematised pillaging and exploitation of sources of Hellenistic and Byzantine history, culture and civilisation.

Whilst the British Museum has hidden itself under the guise of protecting these highly-valued artefacts as Greece has been unable to do so in its modern history of Ottoman occupation, Balkan, First and Second World Wars, civil war, military dictatorship and underdevelopment, it is clear that its permanent claim over these prized Greek possessions is now untenable. Despite the headlines, Greece has developed enormously under its European Union membership; it has realised its 30-year dream of constructing the New Acropolis Museum, voted in 2010 the best in the world by Britain’s own journalists and tourist authors, with the Parthenon Gallery dedicated to the marbles’ restitution, and; Athens has become the modern city it is destined to be, with world-class airport, road and rail infrastructure, a rejuvenated tourism sector since the Olympics and with a population vying for recognition and inspiration of what once made and still can make Greece such a powerful contributor to our world. The tide is certainly turning against the British Museum. Greece has achieved similar restitutions from Germany, Italy, Sweden and even LA’s J. Paul Getty Museum. In London’s year of spotlight, it would be ?classy,? as Stephen Fry says, to return the marbles, as a matter of ?decency? in reflecting the truly diverse and malleable spirit to which the British Museum aspires.

Denying Greece of such a cultural right would be to deny Greece’s growth and development as a country from the 1800s; the positions of Fry and the audience of the debate prove that Britons have progressed. Surely the British Museum can reflect its own people’s development from its colonialist era of an ambassador prizing chiselled marbles from a once-occupied and oppressed cradle of democracy.

Jiannis Tsaousis

Melbourne, Australia

Government involvement

Chairman [Michael] Bodouroglou of Paragon Shipping made a statement that could apply to the entire Greek private sector economy, not just shipping. When he said that the Greek shipping industry has been able to compete because the government largely stays out of their way, he spoke volumes about what is keeping the private sector in Greece from being more competitive. The Greek State has acted as a brake rather than as a lubricant to the Greek private sector for decades. The fact that the Greek shipping industry can remain a top competitor globally is proof enough. Are there enough people in Greece that think this way, or are most Greeks thinking like Mr. Tsipras of SYZIRA?

Peter Kates Illinois,

USA