C&B Notes

An Insider’s Look at Greece on the Brink

Richard is headed to Greece next week to observe first hand a country in a time of turmoil and to research a few businesses that would be interesting if markets there deteriorate further.  We were struck by this open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from a small, new democratic political party named Re-create Greece, which is largely composed of young and well-educated citizens.  The levels of corruption seem fictional, even comical, but are ultimately just sad.   We will be watching this weekend’s election and aftermath closely.

In civilized countries, taxes are being paid in order to finance public services, which are supposed to serve and protect the citizens.  In Greece, according to credible surveys, 85% of the taxes are used to pay for illegal appointments to Government jobs, bribery and wasteful expenses.  The construction of a highway costs 6 times more than one built with the same standards in any other EU country.  The taxation system itself is unfair, paranoid and contradictory, and it changes every few months. In only the year 2011, it was changed eleven times, yes, eleven times, with different taxation systems announced again and again!  It is impossible for even the employees in the tax offices to learn and understand all these changes.  Citizens feel like victims of gang extortion: they must pay because the Greek State will harm them if they do not, while at the same time they fully know that their money ends up in the pockets of politicians and their friends.  The people must save money in order to bribe the taxman that will audit them, the physician that will operate on them or a member of their family, and then there is the employee that will provide the “service.”.   As a result, people feel that  tax evasion is both logical and morally legitimate.

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Your Excellency,

If I were you, I would say “let this awful country go to hell.”  We, decent and lawful Greeks, are grateful that you have not, as yet, done so.  We are grateful for your continuing support.  But to be able to repay you and repay the debt accumulated by the incompetence and the corruption of our politicians, we kindly ask you to force them to do just one thing: to change this monstrous Greek State that they have created, to revoke the privileges of political party “customers” who are appointed with unbelievable salaries and benefits, to force them to implement standards of financial transparency for all public transactions.  If you do not force them, there is absolutely no chance that they will do it by themselves!  Do not give them more money, not a cent, without these conditions, because they will steal it!

Despite all this bad situation, Greece can still thrive, as thousands of Greek immigrants thrived in countries such as yours.  Once the Greek State stops strangling those who have ideas, those that have the strength and the desire to produce, Greece will flourish.  Help us get there.  Do not let corrupt and incompetent politicians deceive you, humiliate us and deprive the world from the future wealth that the true Greek spirit can provide — the one that has never faded in this country.

Thanos Tzimeros