The cost of a gray economy

The findings of a recent Eurobarometer poll, published in Thursday’s Kathimerini, are disturbing. They are troubling not so much because they reveal the pessimism of most Greeks regarding the fate of their country and their restrained optimism about their personal future. It is the contrast between these stances that is so worrying. While 57 percent of Greeks declared that «the next 12 months will be worse as regards the country’s economic situation» (as compared to an EU average of 35 percent), only 28 percent claim to be similarly negative about their personal financial situation. Only 9 percent of Greeks are pessimistic about their careers with 73 percent believing that their professional situation will not change. This is perhaps because many are employed on permanent contracts in the public sector. Many Greeks live by a «come-what-may» attitude, assuming that they will be fine even though their country may have problems. It is also interesting that 57 percent of Greeks predict a decline in the economy while 53 percent believe their personal finances will remain stable. This is perhaps due to the activities of an extensive underground economy. Greeks know that, despite high growth rates, the actual performance of the economy is declining. They also know that they will always find a way to make ends meet. The underground economy fuels individual dreams and forbids collective ones. The poll also shows that Greeks boast roughly the same ownership of consumer durables (e.g. televisions, cars) as their EU counterparts despite earning only 70 percent of the EU average wage. It is nice that we enjoy a relatively good level of individual prosperity, but our underground economy deprives the State of funds that could create the collective prosperity we lack.