Tales of fraud

Some types of news have two peculiar features. First, they get recycled as often as governments get reshuffled. And second, they appear to reveal a shocking scandal, only to languish until its time comes once again to appear in the news. And so, once again, we have it from official lips that Greece is a country of disabled, and sometimes dearly departed, but forever subsidized farmers. According to official statistics, the percentage of disability pensions paid out by the agricultural insurance fund OGA is more than double the European Union average, while in certain areas of western Greece, Macedonia and Crete, the supposedly disabled make up 80 percent of all of pensioners. And an Agricultural Development Ministry survey has (so far) discovered 545 deceased farmers who still receive olive oil subsidies for up to 7,138 euros each. In the latter case, the only possible measure is to stop giving subsidies to the dead. But dozens, if not hundreds, of able-bodied «disabled» people also receive OGA pensions. This scandal is a far greater burden on society, for it entails the cooperation and connivance of a circle of politicians and public servants; and its sporadic disclosure merely allows it to be revived and perpetuated. The creation of an army of allegedly disabled pensioners surely resonates widely in the public sector, for it involves politicians who can no longer offer their voters jobs or other direct trade-offs. In areas where the phenomenon is blatant, former ministers or political appointees often take posts at OGA and become complicit in such scams due to pressure from above or via bribes. There, they diagnose the «disabilities» and sign the requisite certificates. The wide web of guilt will make it very difficult to wield the political lance. However, its resurfacing in the news and in the official record could trigger intervention by the public prosecutor.