OPINION

Holidays in Rhodes leave a bitter taste

Firstly, please forgive me for writing in English. I am a Greek Australian and after 55 years in Australia my written Greek is a bit rusty. I am just a dumb tourist really, but very proud of my Greek heritage, and I visit every year because I am passionate about continuing my roots here. I am worried about a couple of things that I have observed over the last 30 years in relation to Greece’s development, so I hope you don’t mind if I trouble you with them. One of the most serious relates to the really poor buildings that I see, especially in Rhodes where I spend most of my time. How come the Italians, who were in the Aegean for about 30 years (between the wars), managed to achieve, and leave behind, a legacy of such beautifully planned and constructed buildings, roads, civic spaces and infrastructure all over the islands, yet in the 65 years since the Italians departed, these works have been pitifully neglected and worse, rubbish new buildings built and most civic spaces destroyed? Another thing that worries me is the disregard for, and lack of enforcement of, regulations. This is everywhere. For example, most of the bikers I see on the roads don’t wear a safety helmet. Cars and bikes are parked all over the place, in illegal spots that create hazards. Most of the footpath spaces are commandeered by retailers, leaving little room for pedestrians. The narrow footpaths that remain for pedestrians are in a bad state of disrepair and are hazards for normal people, let alone anyone that may be handicapped. Many other regulations are ignored also. Why aren’t regulations enforced? Tax evasion and payments «under the table» are so entrenched here, it boggles the mind. Doctors never provide a receipt (if you request one, the doctor requires 50 percent more in payment), taxi meters are always «inoperable,» casual services are always on a cash basis with no receipts, and on it goes. Worse, services are nonexistent unless you are prepared to pay cash sums as incentives. This applies not only to public services, but also to critical services such as medical. I know of relatives who have had to fork out 4,000 euros and more to private doctors for attention to urgent surgery. Without this «incentive,» they would still be on the «waiting lists.» Why is the administration of the tax laws so inadequate? Public buildings are mostly ramshackle. Rhodes Airport, which has international status, is worse than most Third World airports I have come across. In all the years I have been coming here, I have never seen the escalators working! The air-conditioning system is either never switched on or it is totally ineffective. Overseas visitors encounter a terminal that is dirty, badly lit, with mostly unfriendly and rude terminal workers. The luggage carousel (there is only one) works when the airport staff eventually bother to load it with luggage. Outside, the traffic arrangements are chaotic, and garbage is usually overflowing. This is tourists’ first impression. Why is this terminal so bad, considering that it has «welcomed» millions of tourists? Surely money is not the problem, as these tourists have enriched Rhodes over the last 30 years? I could go on with many other things that I have observed and continue to notice – and be astounded by. The above is not limited to Rhodes. They are generally applicable to many parts of mainland Greece and the islands. I believe that only a government can legislate (and ensure enforcement) to start the process of changing mind-sets. It is my sincere hope that now that your government is engaged in a process of rescuing Greece from many of the past transgressions by both the citizens and various previous governments, you will be able to act accordingly. I believe that most citizens would be supportive, provided they are convinced that it is all for the common good. In the past, most citizens have been cynical of governments’ motives. They have witnessed too many politicians greedily lining their own pockets. This is now a golden opportunity to realign the government and its citizens to create a more effective Greek democracy.
CONSTANTINE PIKOULAS, Coledale, NSW Australia