A drunkard’s budget

The government’s last-minute decision, on the eve of drafting the new state budget, to resort to a barrage of measures to collect taxes as a way of averting fiscal collapse and the humiliation of European Union supervision, comes as no surprise bearing in mind what Greek taxpayers have had to endure in recent decades. In fact, since the restoration of democracy over 30 years ago, regular tax «raids» and sudden changes to the system have been the rule, alienating both local and foreign investors. Constantine Karamanlis imposed emergency taxes three times, Andreas Papandreou did so four times. Some years later, Costas Simitis used the argument of accession to the European Monetary Union to legislate 20 new taxes. In all these cases the sole excuse given by the governments was that revenue was not enough to meet the state’s needs, to pay salaries and pensions, to pay for schools and hospitals, to equip the armed forces. This vicious circle of excuses is reminiscent of the drunkard who cut spending on oil and vinegar but kept paying out the same amount for wine. Now the government’s argument for the extra taxes is, once again, the revenue shortfall, leaving us in the dark about expenditure. When prudent householders can’t make ends meet, they reduce spending. That practice is unheard of for the politicians who have governed us, simply because the parties they lead were born and raised with the belief that it is okay to waste public funds. So expenditure is uncontrolled, leading to deficits and new taxes. This can all be attributed to nepotism, useless new state services, wages paid to advisers and above all the corruption that raises the cost of public works. Inadequate revenue is a poor excuse, given that the economy is growing rapidly and individuals’ incomes are increasing. Our rulers simply don’t want to arrest tax evaders, firstly because there are too many of them and secondly because they are the people who voted them into power.