OPINION

The debt racket

hey owe the state some 26 billion euros, and these are just the confirmed debts that should have already been paid off. The real size of the debt is probably much larger. If the Ministry of Finance had the ability (or, perhaps, the inclination) to demand just 1 euro of every 100 owed to it, it would be able to reduce the public deficit as defined by Brussels by one entire percentage point. It would also have no reason to enlist the tax office’s help in a morally questionable cash hunt. We are often told that the reason why the state cannot collect the money owed to it is because it hasn’t got the right mechanisms to do so. If this were really the case, then why hasn’t it gone about setting one up? You have to be very naive to believe that it wants to collect on its debts but simply can’t. Greeks are no suckers and the political elite needs to tread very carefully when it comes to any issue that can stir public anger. Many already believe that the real reason behind the state’s failure to collect from wily debtors is that it shares certain interests with them. We’ve seen it allow debtors and thieves off the hook. Maybe the rest of us should revolt, and all it would take is for us to realize that we are being clobbered by taxes. Let us also note that the state cannot say exactly how much it is losing in favorable debt settlements, the concealment of revenues and tax exemptions to select clients. Unfortunately, neither can we. The worst thing is that we rarely hear how some politicians are effectively handing over money to the deft cheats. Officials prefer to keep mum because they are usually making something on the side as well. This is why some will hasten to remark that 18 billion of the above debts are a write-off. But who tolerates companies that are just a front and who absolves others of paying their debts to various public companies, which, in turn, seek to recover them from the state? It is always the same racket of economic and political corruption.