This isn’t President Vladimir Putin swimming in the waters off Greek island Katalokon yesterday. Ooooo nononono. It looks like him to me, but Moscow says no, it’s powerful Russian banker Andrey Kostin, complete with 45 security officers, four helicopters, and a large jet on standby. No, it still looks like Rasputin to me. Perhaps he was inspecting the Greek mineral wealth personally. But even if he was just on holiday, why deny it?
Well, as The Slog’s been trying to make clear for some time now, Greece is the place to be these days. Anyone who’s anything in energy and rare-earth minerals is enjoying the waters there. It’s just that we mustn’t talk about it, because of course, the Greek crisis is purely about fat, idle greasy kebab-house owners not paying their taxes.
Be it geopolitics or debt repayment schedules, the truth is dead in Greece – bludgeoned to a pulp by the people in Washington, Brussels, Ankara, Athens and Moscow who just want to help the poor Greeks out of their fiscal hole. Take the Troika: now that Geithner is promising viable alternatives to the Brussels flow of milk and honey, the officials working for this
Chinese triad gang EU/ECB/IMF philanthropy centre are falling over themselves to assist the Greek Establishment in its maze-like search for redemption and solvency.
For example, Troika officials are due to meet with Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis on Wednesday to discuss the liberalisation of the legal profession. Mainly this is about the faster dispensation of justice. Greece has hundreds of thousands of legal cases outstanding. For tax matters alone, there are 165,000 cases outstanding. The embezzlement of billions by past Greek leaders remains an investigation-free zone, but tax arrears…well, that’s important, because tax arrears bring more money in quickly, with which to pay off all those bondholders who probably bought the bonds as a cert for insolvency insurance in the first place.
But if the Troika is here to help, Berlin is concerned to keep those perfidious Greeks on their toes. German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer has become the country’s latest politician to raise the prospect of Greece leaving the eurozone. In a television interview yesterday, Ramsauer said Greece “will no have no alternative but to leave the eurozone if it does not receive any further loans”.
The self-fulfilling logic of that one is decidedly odd, suggesting that Greece is about to truculently turn down the next tranche of bailout money in a fit of Mediterranean pique. Perhaps aware of what he had said, Herr Ramsauer added that Germany “should stop contributing to the aid for Greece if the IMF ends its help for the indebted country”. So, um, if the Troika leaves Athens with bad vibes, Germany should back out too, and then, er, Greece will have no money and leave the eurozone. Yes, I think that’s what he meant. Maybe somebody should try and put his observation into words.
As it happens, Greece has its own legal & tax corruption watchdog, and thus doesn’t need such interventions by CSU MPs. Astutely (and amusingly) Leandros Rakitzis, Greece’s public administration inspector and top watchdog on corruption in the public services, observes that thus far, “the debt crisis hasn’t lowered corruption, just the price of it”. Such an anti-inflationary effect should surely be applauded, but the entire less corruption = more tax income equation breaks down spectacularly when one learns that the worst offenders by far are officials working at…..the tax authority. (Who, by the way, just blagged themselves higher wages and more bonuses plus bigger pensions)
“The struggle against corruption is not easy and demands persistent political will,” Rakitzis wrote in a recent report. But that political will exists only as an aspiration in the watchdog’s mind: the civil servants committing the corruption crimes are usually to be found silently working at their old work places, following a minor knuckles rap or a hastily granted immunity.
Beyond them, corrupt evasion tends to emanate from the corporate sector: Financial Crimes Units (SDOE) of the Finance Ministry report that the majority of businessmen in the Greek island holiday resorts, for example, never issue receipts, therefore depriving the State of at least 23% in Value Added Tax. The SDOE has found that a staggering 70% of businesses have committed tax evasions. As Elena Tsigante wryly observes, “This is an austerity drive being applied to moral values”.
Correct. None of the robots in Brussels, the IMF, the ECB, Athens and interested geopolitical players has told a scintilla of truth about Greece for a very long time now. The truth about Greece is dead and buried. It lies, forgotten, an unmarked grave among many others in that large cemetery called Honour.