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On gambling grannies, standards, elections, tobacco tax, reactions, generosity, oil

Public service

I live in a city that at one stage when a leftist party won the elections they employed 50,000 extra people to help reduce the number of unemployed.

All the extra people meant that everything concerned with government took longer or never happened. When the state became bankrupt the 50,000 were sacked and the rest of the public service was reduced.

With less people in the public service there were less delays. Where departments used to have thousands of people they now number in the hundreds.

There will be further reductions in order to improve productivity. The public service will have many more contract labour for people to come in to do a job and leave when completed.

Unlike Greek organisations, some departments do not have offices that are accessible by the public. There are no places to get in line and ask questions. The citizen is expected to write a letter or e-mail any request.

Most private companies do not have offices physically accessible by the public, they are expected to e-mail any request for information or make payment via e-mail.

The population is increasing and the government dollar goes to delivering service and not employing people who are needed by other parts of the economy.

Not long ago the Greek economy needed hundreds of thousands of educated technicians, but they were not available as they sat in a government office and not contributing to the economy in a meaningful way.

Greece needs to rid itself of long lines of people waiting for banks or government service centres. People waiting in line are not at the shops spending money or working to create wealth.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos


Re: Greek oil reserves

As we all know the trick with oil is to make it work for a country. No small country has ever benefited from oil or gas production.

The worst thing that ever happened to Melbourne, Australia, is that they found a gas and oil supply next to the city and Melbourne is expected to subsidise the exports, by paying a far higher price than can be bought on the open market.

Gas prices in Melbourne started in 1962 by the locals paying three times the world price, and it continues today. The countries that buy Australian oil and gas pay a lesser price than Australian citizens.

The world over the worse thing that can happen to a country is to have oil or gas wells in production. Greece has enough problems than to have the burden of its own oil wells.

Can one imagine what would happen to the Greek economy if Greek business had to pay a 300% increase in fuel prices.

As well as paying a higher price for fuel Greece will have to live with the pollution and the destruction of tourism in Western Greece.

Greeks need to ensure they do not become another poor oil rich country. Oil and gas production is only good for certain countries and their oil companies.

With a bit of luck the oil and gas fields in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro will come into production earlier to take the pressure off the Greek economy, but Greece will have to cope with the Balkan refugees when they are displaced.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos


Re: ‘Charges dropped against Cyprus gambling grannies’

Good to know the public's money is so well spent. LOL.

However, do not let Mr Venizelos hear about any of this. Next thing you know, police will follow all middle-aged and elderly ladies who move suspiciously in an out of friends' apartments.

If he decides to follow and frisk them and find out how many of them spend their afternoons playing cards for money, he will give the old ladies an ulcer and the rest numerous hours of comic relief.

Monica Lane
Florida, USA


Where is the Greek elite?

The German Economy Minister Roesler is quoted in the Ekathimerini as follows:

"I sometimes get the impression that the Greek people are fully aware of the sacrifices being asked of them, but that the elite in Greece don't want to forego their privileges.”

A very bold statement, indeed! From my personal experiences, it is an accurate statement, too. I would only add the following sentence to it:

"The elite in Greece -- be it political, academic, journalistic, artistic, or whatever -- does not want to focus on solutions which Greece could bring about on her own (that is without the EU). Instead, they love to involve themselves in other people's problems such as the PSI, the CDSs, Eurobonds, etc., etc. They love to belabor the past. They love to explain why Greece got into trouble. They love to lament. But they do not come up with specific proposals as to how to get the Greek economy going!"

Greeks in the diaspora have generally been very successful. I got to know a lot of Greeks in Chicago, the world's third-largest Greek city, when I lived there. Those Greeks in the diaspora would be non-existent today if they had acted like the Greek elite is acting in Greece.

To my surprise, I recently came across a website called "Greece is changing." Definitely a laudable initiative. But when I looked for first and last names of people who are behind that initiative to establish contact with them, it turned out that they are all anonymous.

Isn't any member of the Greek elite prepared to "stand up and be counted"? Are all of them so intertwined with the existing cronyism that none of them wants to take chances for Greece's future at the risk of losing perks of the present?

My memory is vague but when I try to remember what we learned about ancient Greeks at school, I often wonder whether today's Greek elite are really descendants from those ancient Greeks.

Klaus Kastner
Austria


Re: Hellenic oil exploration

Of course there will be oil but there are three key issues that must be locked in at the very start: The prevention of corruption. The prevention of the destruction of our seas. The guarantee that the bulk of the profits return to the Hellenic nation. If all three are not done, then leave the oil where it is.

Ange Kenos
Australia


Re: ‘Tight’ Greeks

I have been going to Greece for many years and visited many Islands and have always been overwhelmed by their generosity to me and my wife Janet.

On one occasion I made a bad mistake on being invited out for an extended family meal, and I paid the bill. This I did because our waiter Dave who was also a friend gave me the bill, so being polite I paid without a problem. This was a big mistake: Dimitri took offence that I had offended his honour without discussing it with him.

Having known him and his family for more than ten years he took what he thought was the only option he had and refused to speak to me again. I still speak to his wife, son, daughter but I miss our nights out having a meal together as friends.

I should have known that as he invited us it was his right to pay and by paying the bill I had made a big mistake. I did apologise but it had got around the village, and he felt disrespected by my error of judgement.

So don’t tell me about Greeks being tight. They deserve our respect.

Roger Furey


It is up to the Greeks

I would argue that for Greece to find its path again, it would be mostly up to the Greeks themselves and not up to others. The existing corrupt and totally inefficient system, governing Greece today, must be uprooted and destroyed in its totality. The public sector must be restructured and reorganized into a smaller, much smaller, entity with its main objective being the more effective and quicker administration of its services to the general public.

Laws and regulations that hamper and slow down the administration of public services should be repealed. The tax system must be simplified and made predictable to potential domestic and foreign investors. Labor Unions in the public sector work force should be outlawed. A democratic government is fully capable in protecting the interests of its workers much better than a labor union can.

The Greek legal system needs a complete overhaul, so that it can render decisions much faster than it does today. No case should be allowed to drag on for 10 or more years, as is the case today. As we say here in the United States, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

The Greek public must understand that tax evasion is a serious crime and should be treated as such. This of course presupposes that the tax system is fair and equitable to all and not pick and choose who benefits and who does not. The recent reductions in salaries and pensions should be a lesson to all Greeks that there is no such thing as "free lunch." Sooner or later some one must pay for it. And it always is he who can least afford it.

We should welcome those that are willing to help Greece stand on its own feet again, but the steps forward will be up to the Greeks themselves.

George K. Paleos
New York, USA


Re: Hostage-taker and Greek protocols in dangerous situations

From the article, it says the hostage taker approached a manager and demanded his job back and he was armed with a weapon.

Then the manager says no, and he was shot. From what I remember working in Greek shops and offices, no security, disaster preparedness, or any other type of training is ever offered, so this could have been avoided.

If the manager has simply said, "Yes, of course, you can have your job back, and can you start tomorrow?" and then after the guy leaves, call the police and report it.

Sue Flawkey
Athens


Re: cigarettes and tax revenues

@ Vangelis: your article stresses the losses of government taxation revenues and the drop of sales.

What it fails to portray is the epidemic nicotine addiction that is harming your country men and women.

We seem to see issues from a cash perspective and not a health challenge.

Just imagine that the gov. didn’t collect the projected revenue of 3.5 billion!

Do you think that this socially conducive?

We failed to come to terms with a lot of issues confronting revenue, but will selling more cigarettes take us out of the hole, or put us in one?

With your concerns about tobacco companies losing money and aggressive competition playing hardball on prices we should allow for soft drugs like cannabis to be grown, sold and taxed. This way the gov. can make its fiscal budget.

Cigarettes are harmful! They kill people! And you’re paying billions for it.

Hari T


New parties? They're the same crooks under a different name

Anyone who actually believes that Greece's crooked, corrupt and incompetent politicians will retire quietly after destroying Greece are sadly mistaken. These are now different factions who were unhappy with their economic slice of all the black economy, and now as hopeful parties will approach the same business tycoon crooks and offer them better deals on state contracts etc. -- a race to the bottom.

Greece's politicians are the reason Greece is where it finds itself. Greece itself and it's citizens would easily be able to pay off debts, create an economy based on meritocracy, place a proper tax collection mechanism in place and the list can go on all day but it's Greece's politicians, and these parties who have placed brakes on any changes to the economy and political landscape.

A crook will not hand over his loot, or his secrets on where he is stealing from.

The EU needs to send in inspectors, and a 'country manager' to sort this country out. Our politicians will not do it. This manager must also have absolute power over our corrupt little politicians.

Lionel Luthor


Greek growth

It is very foolish to believe that the Greek economy will grow anytime soon. There is no precedent for the actions taken under the PSI, which leaves official creditors with no losses and private investors cleaned out. Take note if and when there is growth it will not be from private investment.

Paulo Set


The buffers are in sight

Reading through the readers' contributions of last week it is noticeable that the tenor and the tone of the contributions are becoming increasingly disbelieving of how Greeks at all levels are still messing about Nero-style while Greece is 'burning' (metaphorically speaking).

I couldn't possibly add anything on a regular basis that isn't being said by everyone else right now. Of all the contributions most recently published I appreciated the one by Monica Lane best, the one entitled: “Re: Eurogroup chief wants EU commissioner in Greece.” I really couldn't have put it better myself. This contribution seems to reflect a change in tone from what can we do to help Greece, To whatever we do to help Greece it will end up a mess .

Someone else asked: whatever happened to 4,000 years of Greek entrepreneurial ability? Well the answer in short is Greek lethargy during the Ottoman period (no the Ottomans weren't particularly repressive contrary to received nationalist wisdom, just a little unimaginative). Greek lethargy during the Ottoman period that translated into Greek bankruptcy after the Ottoman period that translated into delusions of socialist utopia for most of the next 200 years. Even after the communists were defeated in 1949 the socialist utopia idea still clung to the Greek psychology and the Greek national consciousness. After all the socialist utopia a.k.a. Soviet Union was actually quite similar to the Ottoman system socio-economically speaking.

I pity the Germans for one thing and one thing only, having delusions that they can send technocrats to Greece to sort the place out. I don't know whether that is German delusion or German arrogance or both but they will eventually beat a retreat from Greece unable to grasp the Byzantine intricacies of Greek self-destructiveness. No, Greece isn't the only country going this way, but it is the only one doing so in such a dramatic and clearly hopeless fashion.

Greece always has been a financial and economic basket case. I believe the Germans have only been helping out thus far in order to create safety mechanisms to keep the EU and the euro from collapsing dramatically once Greece goes bankrupt and into relative isolationism.

Germans and the Russians between them have to figure out some better way of handling Europe and Russia together. After all, the two are more or less inextricably linked now. I was interested to read recently that for all the hullabaloo about Iranian exports, 85% of those exports go to India China and Japan. In effect therefore the European ban on Iranian exports will not have that much of an effect on them. Except for Greece of course which was depending on them.

During the Cold War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, it was Albania that was the political pariah. Now I fear that Albania will be joined by Greece in this respect. I fear as Greece goes into isolationism after its exit from the Euro and its distancing from the EU, it might experience the kind of nationalist xenophobia paralleled with a rise in state instability and organised crime. There is likely to be a military intervention if only to create a minimum sense of stability. But even the military needs to be resourced. Nothing happens without resources, not even dictatorships.

Will Greece go into an anarchy of state collapse and organised crime? Or of civil disturbance developing into civil conflict of some sort? Will she resemble a Beirut, a Baghdad, or a Serbia? Apparently emigration is in full flood (12,000 applications to one Australian immigration fair!), migration from the towns back to the country is picking up speed with 38,000 having already migrated. There are those who are looking to Germany with the Goethe Institute in Athens receiving 350 students a day. Presumably Greek emigration to Germany will pick up dramatically for those who want to seek flight to Europe.

Greece is about to lose her brightest and her best to emigration. As for the rest they will be surviving as best they can through methods increasingly less and less legal and normal. This is where organised crime is likely to flourish. There might be a military police state having to cope with social anarchy and criminal activity.

And all the contributions to this newspaper are simply pointing in that direction. This is why I no longer really contribute. Everyone else is saying what I'm thinking albeit in not so many words. Not necessarily about the dictatorship and the organised crime scenarios but pathways to disintegration on the way to that scenario. If anyone can paint a realistic scenario based on real economics and realistic understanding of Greek behaviour in this situation, a scenario that is more optimistic than mine, I would love to read it.

And I don't mean pro-EU scenario, I mean post-bankruptcy and post-Euro optimistic reality scenario?

Philip Andrews


Safety in Greece

Greece has a big problem now which is unsafety. We do understand that it is not in their hands the change of political climates and the globalization which sent into an influx of immigrants to greece and now Greece got into a big problem. The tackling of this problem should be done on the in house level, rather than looking to tighten the security at the borders, which immigrants can always work around, Greece should do something else.

The government should first of all cut the red tape for anything to do with it own citizens. Athens should encourage an influx of Greek citizens to return to Greece, should do anything to encourage Athenians and Greeks to return to the city and live there. When greeks leave their homeland because of the bureaucracy this empty space will be filled by immigrants.

I have gone to the Consulate of Greece in Nicosia and wanted to issue a greek passport for my newly born so I can take her to visit greece, and to my surprise they gave me a two years appointment. This means I have to wait two years until my appointment come so I can apply for a passport for my daughter so she can go and visit Greece. When you look why is this happening, due to technical issues and due to bureaucratic measures. On the other hand, a non-Greek can just walk in and get a visa to visit Greece in 10 days. How does Athens expect its own people to return to greece if Athens does not respect them?

Yiannis G


Hope or not

I am a British Citizen living in Greece for the last 31 years. My Greek husband a plumber and we had our own business for 25 of those years, up until 2 years ago. We had to close as we had less and less work. We now have no health insurance; we both have no work. We are in debt and no way to pay it back. Greece is dying along with its people -- the proof is on the streets, unemployment is rising out of control, there is no future for our children. The only people who will rise above this mess are the wealthy and the politicians. Corruption in Greece is the cause of the problem -- this needs waking up not the people -- regular citizens of Greece are wide awake.

Deborah Doxakis
Athens


Re: ‘Emergency signal’

This article accurately reflects the political situation in Greece and indeed in other countries, such as Ireland, in the aftermath of their bailouts. Politicians are like startled rabbits caught in the headlights of a car -- unable to move. While I agree that "the job description upon which they chose to become politicians has changed entirely", it is the politicians themselves who are mainly responsible for this change in job description. As a result, we need politicians who understand the new requirements for the positions and have the qualifications and ability to do the job. This would deliver on the key point in the article, collaboration in the national interest. The inability to engage in 'social dialogue' between the government, employer organisations and trade unions is a real barrier to solving the country's problems so this should be the priority of any new government. Therefore, politicians must lead by example and co-operate with each other in the first instance, otherwise 'stasis' will continue to rule.

Jerry Melinn


Re: Comment: ‘Tangible evidence of democracy’

In your article regarding the Greek welfare state dated March 4th, you stated and I quote: "Nevertheless, underdeveloped as it was, it had reached a point where it could guarantee the entire population free access to every level of education and healthcare."

This is nothing other than ludicrous.

Half the nation's parents find it necessary to pay large sums of money to send their children to “frontisterios” and only 55% of Greeks are satisfied with their education services. Many Greeks go abroad for higher education which comes as no surprise to anyone who has walked past a university in Athens.

In spite of a relatively high proportion of GDP spent on healthcare, patients are forced to pay fortunes in bribes for elective surgery, languish in Europe's most decrepit hospitals and receive no nursing unless it is provided by relatives or private nurses. A vicious circle exists of low salaries for medical staff leading to systemic corruption within the service. It is also virtually impossible to hold medical staff accountable for their mistakes.

"Every level of education and healthcare" bears no relationship with the services available in Greece and the most tangible evidence is of a society whose rights and aspirations are too compromised by corruption and ineptitude to call itself a functioning democracy.

Bruce Hymers
Paros


Greek thieves

Greece has lived beyond its means on other people’s money for too long, now they must devalue by 30%, then start earning in the real world.

Robert Christian

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