Reports suggest that Greece is a potential bankrupt borrower that cannot repay interest on its Government debt of 340 billion euros.
It is also predicted that if Europe does not give Greece a reprieve on debt repayments, other members of the EU such as Spain and Italy will probably join Greece in the club of failed financial states.
If this were to happen, not only would the EU would be in uncharted waters, the world economy may not escape the effects of significant European financial failure.
These serious considerations suggest that Europe will assist Greece in delaying its obligations to repay debt and interest; however delay in Greek debt repayments does not remove the debt from the books with an unpopular and painful financial squeeze on the Greek people seeming inevitable.
If it is true that one of the main problems causing Greek debt is tax avoidance by the rich and perhaps some not so rich; then this difficult matter will be addressed by the Greek Government against inevitably hostile opposition from tax avoiders and many Greek voters who believe that they are taxed enough already via a higher equivalent of our Australian GST and other taxes.
As a regular visitor to Greece over 35 years, I believe a few things could ease the debt burden on the Greek Government.
At the risk of offending my Greek friends, let’s start with payment of early Government pensions which though admittedly contributed to by individuals, in my experience have been be paid to people in good health, well before they are 50 years of age.
Concerning education, why should the Greek people and government pay some teachers full salaries for sometimes starting work at 8am and being able to finish work and be socialising in the coffee shops around 1pm?
Why should financially strapped Greek parents, who will also be called upon to pay extra taxes because of the economic crisis; have the expense of paying for their children to attend extra private schooling (Frontisteria) outside of normal school hours to make up for the schooling lost from the public system because of the short working week of teachers?
To add to the scandal, how many teachers finishing work early can then earn money by teaching in the Frontisteria?
My experience also suggests (admittedly experience in villages) that while Greek householders pay for power and water, I’m not sure they are required to the same extent as in Australia, to pay property council rates and other payments such as for maintenance of parks and public gardens.
Such taxes are commonly accepted in Australia and would be a revenue earner for the Government as well as hopefully, enabling improved public services including the third world Greek health system.
Concerning the importance of tourism to the Greek economy and the Government’s ability to pay off debt; some Greeks involved in tourism should desist from occasional displays of being arrogantly dismissive when dealing with tourists seeking information.
Importantly, Greeks who work in tourism and overcharge tourists should realise that these tourists are savvy people who can easily choose to go elsewhere with their money.
Finally, it doesn’t require a non-Greek to mention that one of the major ways for Greece to reduce government debt would be a reduction in its huge (for a country of its size) defence expenditure.
This would be largely dependent on improving relations and trust with the old enemy Turkey.
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