OPINION

Immoral settlements

The government’s economic policy makers should not try to alleviate their worries about falling revenues by entering into awkward deals with tax dodgers, smugglers and land-grabbers. Unethical compromises that pardon crimes for financial gain work against social solidarity. The message sent out by such favorable settlements is «Go on, break the law, do not pay taxes, adulterate your products, burn down and grab state-owned land – you won’t be punished. Rather, some government provision will expunge your record for pocket change.» Those who respect the law feel like fools. But it’s unlikely this nihilistic message will compel people to rally for economic reform and development. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told journalists recently there will be no more settlements of outstanding tax debts – admitting the previous ones to which Yiannos Papantoniou, Nikos Christodoulakis and even Alogoskoufis himself had agreed actually damaged society’s so-called tax conscience as they effectively rewarded tax dodgers. But if Alogoskoufis is truly sincere, then he should withdraw recent legislation offering title deeds to 85,000 citizens encroaching upon state-owned land. He should also order his deputy Adam Regouzas to revoke pardons for those sentenced by a court of first instance for having issued or used bogus invoices. Alogoskoufis and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas should reintroduce the decision by Nikos Christodoulakis – which the former PASOK minister shelved a few years ago after being blackmailed by petrol station owners – on the mandatory issue of receipts for gasoline. The government would then be able to curb smuggling and would spare itself the embarrassment of recalling its proposal to harmonize diesel fuel and heating oil taxes.