Friday, June 17, 2011

The Bonfire of Civilisation - The Greek FUBAR

FUBAR is a  nautical term meaning " fouled up beyond all repair " although fouled has been replaced with a with a slightly stronger F word in its modern incarnation. I have been following events in Greece from afar but really without any real understanding of what was actually behind them but today I was given a heads up with Radio New Zealand's Afternoons Programme The panel is probably the best hour of weekday radio in New Zealand.

Vanity Fair last year ran an excellent article that astonished me and given the dislocation occurring in Greece now might well explain the situation.

" ...and for the mysterious Vatopaidi monastery, which brought down the last government, laying bare the country’s economic insanity. But beyond a $1.2 trillion debt (roughly a quarter-million dollars for each working adult), there is a more frightening deficit. After systematically looting their own treasury, in a breathtaking binge of tax evasion, bribery, and creative accounting spurred on by Goldman Sachs, Greeks are sure of one thing: they can’t trust their fellow Greeks. "

 $250,000 per working person that is an astonishing figure we are freaking out down under at a debt of about $4000 per New Zealander which I am guessing would be about $12,000 per working New Zealander. This is public debt not private debt, ie your liability for what your Government has borrowed. So how did this happen ? 

In the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t ta" In just thke into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year.... Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,” Manos put it to me. “And yet there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.”

I have always worked in the private sector and I have often wondered what the my worth might be in the public sector in Greece it probably would be a hell of a lot more than New Zealand.

" The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average—and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets. "

Actually it is a crime here theft as a servant and it would be prosecuted but unbelievably this story gets better    sorry worse.

Each day they discovered some incredible omission. A pension debt of a billion dollars every year somehow remained off the government’s books, where everyone pretended it did not exist, even though the government paid it;...The next morning there would be this little hand rising in the back of the room: ‘Actually, Minister, there’s this other 100-to-200-million-euro gap.’ This went on for a week. Among other things turned up were a great number of off-the-books phony job-creation programs. “The Ministry of Agriculture had created an off-the-books unit employing 270 people to digitize the photographs of Greek public lands,” the finance minister tells me. “The trouble was that none of the 270 people had any experience with digital photography. The actual professions of these people were, like, hairdressers.”

Getting the picture people.  Trust me you are not it get worse, from the Greek Finance Minister

As he finishes his story the finance minister stresses that this isn’t a simple matter of the government lying about its expenditures. “This wasn’t all due to misreporting,” he says. “In 2009, tax collection disintegrated, because it was an election year.”
He smiles.
“The first thing a government does in an election year is to pull the tax collectors off the streets.”
“You’re kidding.”
Now he’s laughing at me. I’m clearly naive.

WTF. I have issues with the taxman being the first creditor when it comes to people being made redundant but this i8s a bad joke. It get's worse.

"The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year—which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all. The problem wasn’t the law—there was a law on the books that made it a jailable offense to cheat the government out of more than 150,000 euros—but its enforcement. “If the law was enforced,” the tax collector said, “every doctor in Greece would be in jail.” 
Excuse me all you fucking idiots in the Tea Party this is your vision for America. Vote Palin guys and you can have it. 

Tami  my friend, Isn't it ironic. 

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