I wrote an article earlier this week criticizing Christine Lagarde’s comments about Greece. My main objections were that she helped perpetuate the stereotype of all Greeks evading taxes, overlooked the International Monetary Fund’s role in the buildup to the Greek crisis and the way it was handled since 2009, and her belittling of the difficulties that some Greeks are facing due to the deteriorating situation in their country.
I have received a number of interesting responses, the vast majority of which have focused on the issue of tax evasion. Even the most blinkered nationalist or dogmatic ideologue could not fail to see that tax evasion has played a part in the Greek crisis. It undermined public finances and fed the anomie that pervaded much of public life over the past few decades.
However, I have noticed that some people consistently reject all attempts to place tax evasion within any context. It is difficult for them to accept that there are other, perhaps more important, factors — such as an uncompetitive and unproductive economy, an inability to export, a reliance on imports, a flawed euro entry and the selfishness and incompetence of the country’s political class and many of its people — which have led to Greece’s downfall.
Posted in European Union, Greece
Tagged Christine Lagarde, eurozone, Greece, Greece tax evasion, Greek crisis, IMF, International Monetary Fund, tax avoidance, tax evasion, Tax Justice Network
Greece’s tax collectors were told over the weekend that they would have to do a much better job this year at gathering overdue taxes. How much better? Almost 200 percent.
According to Skai TV, some 700 million euros was collected in 2011 by chasing down taxpayers that had run up debts. This year, inspectors will have to collect 2 billion euros as Greece tries to meet even tougher fiscal targets amid a deepening recession.
Preliminary figures showed that tax revenues were already 1 billion euros short of the government’s target in January alone, with VAT receipts showing a considerable drop. As consumption decreases, so do revenues, which makes it even more vital that any existing debts are settled.
Animated illustration by Manos Symeonakis
There is a wonderful short documentary doing the rounds on the Internet at the moment courtesy of The New York Times. Directed by Errol Morris, the film focuses on the presence of the so-called “Umbrella Man” at the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. With the help of private detective and former philosophy professor Josiah Thompson, Morris paints the picture of the apparently sinister presence of a man holding a black umbrella on a sunny day in Dallas exactly at the point where Kennedy was shot.
However, Thompson goes on to point out that the Umbrella Man eventually came forward and explained that he was holding the umbrella as a protest against the appeasement policy of JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, when he was US ambassador to Britain before the Second World War. The umbrella was a visual reference to the British prime minister at the time, Neville Chamberlain, who also carried one.
Posted in European Union, Greece, Greek politics
Tagged Drachma, euro, European Union, eurozone, Greece, Greece austerity, Greece retirement, Greece tax evasion, Greece working hours, Greek bailout, Greek crisis, Greek debt crisis, Greek public sector, Greek spending, Greek statistics, International Monetary Fund
You know it’s August when journalists work themselves into a lather over a tax-dodging astrologist, as they did earlier this month. Granted, this particular Greek stargazer had allegedly hoarded some 4 million euros away from the prying eyes of tax inspectors. But the real news was that he managed to earn so much offering such a bad service. After all, if he were any good at predicting the future, he would have seen the taxman coming.
The snaring of an astrologer is usually about as titillating as tax-related matters can get, but it’s been an action-packed few weeks for members of the financial crimes squad (SDOE) and the newly formed Financial Police. They nabbed academics at the University of Ioannina who allegedly denied state coffers 700,000 euros, they caught 31 tourism-related businesses hiding their profits and the new hotline for citizens to register suspicions of tax evasion has reportedly been doing roaring business.
Posted in Economy, European Union, Greece, Greek politics
Tagged Barclays Bank, Barry Eichengreen, eurozone, Greece, Greece tax evasion, Greek crisis, Greek economy, Greek public revenues, Nouriel Roubini, UK tax evasion
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
As Greece draws breath after voting for a new package of austerity measures likely to pave the way for another loan agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, this might be an opportune moment to identify one of the key faults with the first memorandum signed last year. Because, like a Hollywood sequel which follows a dire original, Memorandum II is likely to make us want to look away in horror.
There is plenty in the medium-term fiscal plan, or MTFP as it’s known in sequel speak, about reducing public spending. Greece plans to save more than 14 billion euros by 2015. This means, among other things, that the public sector wage bill will be cut by 770 million euros this year, 600 millon in 2012, 448 million in 2013, 300 million in 2014 and 71 million in 2015.
Posted in Economy, European Union, Greece
Tagged EU, EU-IMF bailout, EU-IMF memorandum, European Union, George Papandreou, Greece, Greece austerity, Greece corruption, Greece loan memorandum, Greece memorandum, Greece public education, Greece public expenditure, Greece public health, Greece public sector, Greece public sector reform, Greece public spending cuts, Greece tax evasion, Greece taxes, Greek bailout, Greek civil service, Greek public administration, IMF, International Monetary Fund, Jean-Claude Juncker
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
There are rare moments when a thread of togetherness winds its way through a country to lift its everyday burdens. Sometimes, these moments are born from political, sporting or other types of victories. But victories tend to bring out the worst as well as the best in people. It’s usually moments of grief or sadness that stoke the purest of emotions, creating a fleeting sense of community before it’s sucked into the morass of daily stresses and strains.
Greece experienced such a moment last Sunday when the death of singer-songwriter and musician Nikos Papazoglou was announced. He was an unassuming man who made rare public appearances and dodged the media spotlight. The reaction to his death was a reflection of people’s love for his pure and passionate music, but it was also a sign of respect for Papazoglou the human being: as an artist he shunned commercialism and stayed true to his values and as a man he remained humble and generous despite his fame.
Posted in Economy, European Union, Greece, Greek politics, Media
Tagged Ah Ellada, Athens Olympics, Costas Karamanlis, eurozone, Ferrostaal, Greece, Greece corruption, Greece economic statistics, Greece eurozone, Greece Focus magazine, Greece statistics, Greece tax dodging, Greece tax evasion, Greece unemployment, Greek debt crisis, Greek diaspora, Greek people, Greeks, Johnson & Johnson, New Democracy, Nikos Papazoglou, PASOK, Siemens