OPINION

On June 17 elections, SYRIZA, reforms, energy

Germany won’t overstrain Greece… latest update

I just had a dream, in which someone announced over the radio:

“Except for the citizens of Zakinthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca, all Greek citizens must be fully fluent in German in 5 years.

?All restaurants in Plaka and Syndagma must offer at least 5 German dishes on their menus.

?All non-German cars are to be eliminated from the Greek market immediately.

?Finally Germany will open negotiations with the citizens of Zakinthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca in order to pay restitution for War damages, nonpayment of rent (1940-44), clean up charges after massacring 9,000 Italians on a public road and, allowing Greece to enter the EU illicitly.”

Pantelis Nicholas Tselentis

Johannesburg, South Africa

A disgrace

Greek politicians have again proved to the world again that they are lowest calibre of people in Europe.

While Greeks are going hungry and sleeping in the streets by the thousands, and, even worse, Greeks are again refugees in other countries, they need a second day to form a coalition.

What have they been doing for six weeks!

Let us all hope they do not need a third election.

If a third election happens, no one that was voted in this should be allowed to stand again.

It?s obvious they do not have any concern for the people.

How does Greece end up with these people!

Did they crawl out of the Athens sewers!

Their vanity and egos are bigger than their ability to serve Greece.

The control of the economy must be taken out of the politicians? hands at once.

They show they cannot be trusted with people?s lives.

A body of people who have shown ability and concern must look after the Greek economy, not a bunch of monkeys.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

The next step: Necessary reforms and ideas

On June 17th sanity prevailed, at least temporarily. It came down to two lousy choices but one was clearly worse than the other. Greece needs political and social change but remodeling your house while it is on fire is not wise. ND and Pasok need to unite together, give a mea culpa for the past 30 years and clean up the mess they created (although I place 90% of the blame for this mess on Andreas Papandreou who created the monster).

Some practical reforms that are needed, in my humble opinion:

1. Taxation. Increasing taxation in an economic depression is one of the worst things you can do. It penalizes economic development and small business, which is the backbone of any modern economy. Why should the business owner expand or hire more people if the government is just going to take it away? In fact, by lowering taxes to spur economic growth, government revenues will actually increase. There is a sweet spot in taxation levels that maximizes government revenue. Google the Laffer curve for more details. Lowering taxes to 0% is as bad as raising them to 100%. Look at what is happening now. Taxes are higher yet government revenues are down and tax evasion has actually increased. A balance needs to be found. Also, the government should offer incentives for companies to move to Greece or hire more workers. For example, give them a period of tax breaks for, let?s say, 5 years to establish themselves. This has worked in many places. In addition, tax rates on gas, VAT, and income are nearing confiscatory levels which only encourage more tax evasion. You cannot tax your way out of this mess. Lower the taxes and simplify the tax code to increase compliance and encourage private business expansion. Businesses hire people. As they hire more people, government revenue increases due to a larger tax base. In addition, government reduces expenditures by having less people on the government dole.

2. Civil service reform. Tell the civil service union to go pound sand. They have become too powerful and have overstepped their bounds with unrealistic demands. The party needs to end. So far it is the private sector and retirees that have been hit the hardest but the civil servants have been largely protected. They produce nothing of economic value and they are paid through government revenue collected from private businesses and taxpayers. They are a drain on the system. There is no question they are needed for government to function but there are far too many of them and have created a constipated bureaucracy where getting anything done is next to impossible. Creative statistics can show that Greece doesn?t appear to have a much larger civil service than other European countries. However if you?ve ever had to deal with getting something done requiring state approval (which is about everything in Greece), you know better.

Because I am not a heartless bastard and civil servants are people too, those that need to be laid off should be offered job retraining and encouraged to enter into the private sector once it starts to recover. Early retirement should also be offered for those that qualify. The empty positions should be left unfilled if they are redundant and unnecessary (which most are) thus reducing the size of the bureacracy. Take the money that would have gone to them as salary/benefits/etc and use it for purposes of job retraining and placement services. In this way you will convert a growing annual expenditure into a one-time expenditure which will end once the civil service has been pared down to a reasonable level.

3. Modernize. Paper is no longer acceptable in the modern world. The internet has been around for over 30 years and computer technology has surpassed our wildest expectations, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity in all sectors of life. Most Greek websites are antiquated and have the sophistication of websites circa the year 2000. Government websites have the sophistication of the 1990s vintage internet. This needs to change. All government functions should be gradually converted electronically from applying to permits to voting as many other countries have done. As there is a large elderly population in Greece that may not be familiar with computers, I would still keep some of the traditional offices open for their sake. However, the number of workers required would necessarily decrease with the shift of government business online.

This all of course will require financial investment but not as much as people think. This is where the EU may consider helping out. If they see concrete evidence of reform and progress, I think a convincing case can be made for helping out in this regard. Young Greeks are very adept at using computers and the internet and have the expertise to create this kind of new infrastructure.

With increased efficiency and a streamlined bureaucracy via technology, large businesses may start to look more closely at Greece for investment and expansion. This means more jobs. This will also encourage potential entrepreneurs to start new small businesses. How much motivation will a person have to start say, a restaurant, if he has to go to 10 offices to get 30 permits versus only 1 or 2 permits that can all be done electronically? It?s not rocket science.

4. Meritocracy. There will always be nepotism/favoritism in the world. There?s no way you can eliminate it and it will always be a part of life. However, meritocracy in Greece is almost non-existent. To be honest, the only evidence of meritocracy I have ever seen in Greece is on the college entrance exams that determine who gets to go to college strictly based on the score achieved by each student. I?m also reminded of my cousin who went to apply for a position as a gym teacher for elementary school. He had excellent qualifications with two degrees from an American university in kinesiology and business in addition to running a business himself. It turns out the guy he had to see actually knew him from years ago. When he got the job, he said to me if it wasn?t for the guy that knew him, his application would?ve been buried under a stack of papers.

Unfortunately I have no answers as to how to increase meritocracy in Greek society. Though I have spent considerable time in Greece, I am an outsider and there is a lot I still don?t understand about Greek society. I wasn?t raised there. Maybe it needs to start at the top at the government level first, following which it can filter down to the rest of society (hopefully).

5. Political honesty. How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving. This is the most difficult thing to achieve and to be honest may be impossible. In the US, where I live, this has disappeared entirely. People are not being told the truth about the state of the economy and the consequences of expanding unfunded entitlements. I am convinced that if the US does not change course, it will be Greece in 10 years.

However, the choke hold ND and Pasok had on the Greek political scene is now over. I hope Greeks can discern which parties promote practical solutions to the fundamental problems facing the country and which are simply delusional and feed the public what they want to hear (Syriza). Now is the time for these parties to emerge and make their case directly to the public. The chances of ND and Pasok changing their ways are slim to none; there is too much resistance within their own parties.

Anyway, those are my 2 cents which is what my suggestions are probably worth. I m not an expert, just an average guy trying to figure out some practical solutions that can help Greece move into the 21st century.

N. Galanopoulos

USA

Election results

This is the worst possible result. Tsipras got what he wanted: power without responsibility. He will be governing from the gutter with his gang of thugs. As for the coalition of the unwilling and unable, I predict that it will last until Christmas. In the meantime, nothing will be achieved by way of urgent and drastic reforms as Tsipras and the civil service will boycott every initiative.

Stand by for more riots and the burning of what is left of the center of Athens. Greece is beyond reform; stop deluding yourselves. The best any sane government can do is enter into negotiations for an orderly exit from the EU and the Euro zone. The question that arises, however, is, is there such a thing as a sane person in Greece?

The choice is between an orderly exit from the EU or expulsion, nothing else. The chances for this happening were given in Monday’s papers here in Canada as between 50% and 75% by Christmas 2012.

God help you, and I do not envy Him!

Andreas Hadzoglou

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Greek elections

As a Greek Australian, I am very proud of my heritage and am dismayed by the current fiscal tragedy affecting Greece.

I note that one of Syriza’s platforms was to abolish the law relating to «immunity against criminal prosecution against politicians» in the event that it was able to form government at the most recent elections. The case in point is the current charges against Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

I have researched whether Nea Dimokratia had a similar platform but have not been able to find any evidence of it.

Unless the rule against immunity for criminal prosecution for politicians is immediately overturned, my view is that the current political landscape in Greece will not change. By having ND and Pasok governing Greece is akin to placing a wolf in charge of a flock of sheep — sooner or later a sheep will be taken.

I trust that common sense will prevail, but then again, this is politics we are talking about.

Con Kiatos

Melbourne, Australia

Greeks voted for the euro? No they didn’t!

If you take a close look at the voting figures, the country was split down the middle.

About 2,990,000 (3 million minus 10,000) voted for ND, PASOK, and DimAr. While about 3,180,000 (3 million plus 180,000) voted for mostly anti-bailout parties.

Because of the plethora of parties, this anti-bailout vote was well and truly split up. Even so, SYRIZA only lost to ND by 170,000.

And yet because of the Greek electoral system, if ND had only won by 1 vote it would still have got those 50 seats. That 50-seat ‘bonus’ effectively disenfranchises about 1,150,000 voters as each seat is worth roughly 23,000 votes (roughly 6,900,000 voters divided by 300 seats).

If anyone has a better figuring, please let us know.

Greeks did not vote for the euro; what they voted for was anti-euro but the system was rigged to misrepresent them. Bully for Merkel, she’s got the Greeks in the palm of her hand once more…

Well surprise surprise, tell me something I didn’t know…!

The only thing apparently no one bargained for because it was electorally ‘insignificant’ was that Hrysi Avghi would retain almost the same vote and presence in the Parliament. Does that tell us anything?

Philip Andrews

Corrupt power

When Greece is on its knees, the «carpet baggers» of Europe are coming over to take the taxes paid by the poor to subsidise so-called Green Power.

Ekathemerini reporting half a story means it does not dare publish the cost of electricity and subsidies to these so-called Green Power people.

Nothing has changed in Greece, turning a blind eye to unethical practices is what has bought the country to its knees.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

Lecturing SYRIZA

In the editorial titled «Shaping up SYRIZA for opposition,» advice is given to Syriza as to the behavior of its young people. I must have missed the editorials advising New Democracy in a similar fashion of the wisdom of including infamous members of LAOS into its ranks.

The sooner Greece can disentangle itself from this impossible web, the sooner that new parties will need to be formed. New Democracy now is permanently tainted. You can’t sell your soul in such a fashion and expect to be regarded in the same way ever again.

Dimitri Anastasopoulos

Buffalo, NY