Dangerous habit

The Greek Finance Ministry has developed a very bad, if not dangerous, habit over the past few years. Each time those in charge of tax policy are faced with a difficult decision, they choose to leak information to the press in a bid to test the waters.

As a result, people who read newspapers or watch TV are hit daily with reports about purported government plans to reduce or increase this or that tax, or to scrap measures for tax breaks.

With all the news, information and comments, it’s very hard to know what measures are already in effect, which are set to take effect in the near future, and which are simply thrown out there to spark debate and gauge public opinion.

Of course any politicians who use this tactic are shooting themselves in the foot. Worse, they are destabilizing society. It is of secondary importance if a measure will eventually be passed into law. People get upset just by hearing or reading about it.

In other words, most of the time, leaked information comes at a hefty political price. Greece must be the only place in the world where ministers and government officials are subject to such frequent attacks for things that were at some point suggested or even proposed but never in fact implemented.

And that is not the only problem. Let’s think of a simple example: What sensible person would buy or transfer property when they feel they are standing on quicksand?

Politicians don’t stand a chance of creating an environment of stability and psychological security when they can’t even settle issues such as tax amnesty for those who decide to bring back their savings to Greece. No sense of stability can survive in this climate.

Meanwhile, government officials in Cyprus have asked that the higher corporate tax rate, a measure demanded by representatives of the country’s international creditors, remain in place for 10 years so that investors have a clear picture.

We in Greece, on the other hand, don’t even have any idea of what will be in effect two months from now.

Those responsible for Greece’s tax policy must put an end to this climate of uncertainty. Public debate can and must take place under the umbrella of a committee that will undertake to prepare the new tax system in May.

Until that happens, however, government officials must be clearer in their statements because their irresponsible attitude only serves to irk the public and harm the coalition government at what is a very crucial time for the country.

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