OPINION

Stop rewarding illegal behavior

Who said illegal behavior is punished? It may happen in other countries, but in Greece it has once again been rewarded. The Economy Ministry’s decision to give land titles to 70,000 people who have encroached on public property, and valued for taxation purposes at lower than the market rate, proves that illegal behavior pays off in Greece. In some privileged areas it pays well; enough to become an incentive to further law breaking. The situation is absurd. The state legislates, official bodies pretend to oversee implementation of the law and land-grabbers build. And whenever a government needs money or votes it legalizes the illegal. This vicious circle not only destroys the environment but also creates unlivable cities and does long-term damage to the environment. Legalized illegal buildings sooner or later develop into settlements with no town planning, parks or open spaces where residents can live a decent life. On the other hand, the cost of building elementary infrastructure such as sewage systems in chaotically developed townships is far higher than in properly planned areas. What the national economy gains in the short term by privatizing land (if only by legalizing such buildings) it pays many times over in the long run. It is time Greece acquired a proper building policy. The land and forestry registers are basic tools. Without them society is in thrall to political patronage. And a proper philosophy of environmental management is also needed. Building pressure, as the real estate boom shows, is huge. Rather than getting into the vicious cycle of legalizing illegal properties – a pattern which just produces more of them – the government must first formulate a building plan.