Friday, February 12, 2010

What are the Greeks Saying?

I spent a little time noodling around the webs, looking for English-language versions of Greek newspapers, wondering what they're saying about their impending debt default and the rescue plan being generated by the rest of Europe.

The Athens News shows Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou blaming everyone else.
In his televised address to the nation, a sombre Papandreou did not hesitate to blame “the unprecedented crisis we are experiencing” on the fact that Greece finds itself targeted in a wider speculative attack on the common European currency.

“Our national duty is to ward off these efforts to push the country over the cliff,” Papandreou said.


“Today Greece is in the centre of a broader international profiteering game, with the euro as its target,” the premier added. “Unfortunately, because of our country’s past policies, we are seen as the eurozone’s weak link. It is a national duty to fight those forces that have tried to push our country to the edge.”
It's those darn profiteers and speculators! His response, gleaned from the rest of the article, will be to increase gasoline taxes and cut civil servant pay. They're also looking at means-testing their version of Social Security. There was no evidence there that they questioned their underlying devotion to socialism.

Greek News, a Greek-American newspaper, is a bit more direct.
The sense of urgency may finally be hitting home. “Greeks have realized, in the last 40 days, that this is no joke,” says Eftichios Vassilakis, vice chairman of Aegean Airlines, Greece’s largest air carrier. “We are at a critical moment. Some like to say that Greeks respond best when we’re at the edge of the cliff. Well, we’re definitely at the edge of the cliff.” ...

Most Greeks agree that the tax system (see following story) and the bloated public sector, nicknamed “the country’s sickest patient,” are at the root of Greece’s current problems. In a country of 11 million people, almost 850,000 workers are employed by the state, which means they receive 14 monthly paychecks instead of 12. Many enjoy a work day that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “The state must change the mentality of the public employee,” says one investor and economist, Timos Mellisaris, who calls Greece’s public sector “the last communist frontier.”
Wow. 2 extra paychecks a year and a 7-hour workday. That's got to be nice. Still, if Greece is anything like California, it's not the civil servants that are the problem, but the cash handouts to the population.

From that same article, we see capitalism thriving.
Those with healthy balance sheets, however, see a silver lining. Basil Stephanis, president of Selonda, a $167 million aquaculture company with fish farms in Greece, Turkey and Wales, says Greece’s woes are “an opportunity to consolidate and buy up companies with liquidity problems.” Constantine Petropoulos, chairman of Petros Petropoulos, a $158 million firm that sells cars, automotive supplies and industrial equipment, also plans to beef up his portfolio. “We will acquire businesses that we wouldn’t have ever been able to consider in better times,” he says.
OK, I'm going to stop here with a broad generalization.

A picture taken in Greece, borrowed from that has nothing to do with my post, but is being used to visually break up a lot of talky-talk.

Socialism lives where people don't actually do any work. The politicians and the gadflies looking for handouts believe in the redistribute-the-wealth rhetoric. The folks actually producing things are living like Ayn Rand, even if they talk and vote like Ted Kennedy. If that was not the case, Constantine Petropoulos would be looking for ways to share his profits with "less fortunate" businesses.

Progressive concepts, apparently, only work when you don't.


Ralph Musgrave said...

Two more views on Greece by Greeks:

K T Cat said...

Thanks, Ralph. Those were both terrific pieces.