Een nieuw lente, een nieuwe website. Gelukkig verhuisde mijn verzameling stukjes over Griekenland mee. Vandaag gaat de la weer open voor een nieuwe dossier onder de letter “G”, dat ik gisteren schreef voor een extern verslag.
PS. Nee, de voertaal van de site wordt niet Engels. U mag in het Nederlands reageren. Graag zelfs. Toch liever de Nederlandse steenkolen versie? Klik hier.
I try not to come up with market information that is readily available in the daily press, so I assume you are up to date on the situation after the elections and subsequent troubles in Greece. I published 43 articles about Greece in early 2010 and was told I was crazy. When I talked about fighting in the streets I was told the same, but with more gentle insistence. Ubris, drama, tragedy, paranoia, panic, chaos, xenophobia and catharsis are all Greek words. It has become a cliché to mention this. Wrong, I think. Between sweeping generalizations and the opposite, in the name of political correctness, there is a budding field of ethnopsychiatry.
The other day I read an article in Le Monde about a gentleman named Stélios Stylianidis. Mr Stylianidis is Greek and he is a psychiatrist. He clearly explains his view of Greek madness. In Greek tragedies, the third generation finally comes clear and pays the family’s debt. Greece has a long way to go. Let’s have a look again.
I continue to believe that the situation in Greece keeps on being misunderstood by those who are responsible for handling it. Less so than before, but still. We are talking about the EU, the ECB, and national governments. All three have their responsibility for the troubles developing in the first place. By admitting Greece, by not having Eurostat, the EU statistics office, check the Greek numbers thoroughly, by denying and by understating the problem when it surfaced in 2010, by dragging their feet for whatever inacceptable motive, and now by still acting as if Greece is like other countries. And let’s not forget that they are us.
Greece is, as we had argued, an exceptional case. By the way, any Greek will tell you so. The problems in Greece are characterized by the underdeveloped, third world status of economic development. There is no export industry, no field of competitiveness, and an incapacity to develop the country’s resources, such as tourism. And there is another factor, more difficult to understand.
A very recent example was when we found out how the olive oil industry works. In Greece, 50% of olive oil is exported in bulk, ensuring the lowest possible added value for the producers. OK, but after the devaluation the Greeks can catch up through tourism. But the same is true for tourism as for olive oil. We know of no strong Greek tourism companies with cross border operations. Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany all have their Sotogrande, NH Hoteles, Iberia, Air France, Club Med, Accor, TUI or Kuoni. Greece doesn’t. The same is the case in other industries, such as food. In shipping, Greece has a tradition and volume, but no fiscal added value, since all onshore business is untaxed for fear of shippers leaving.
Every week brings its load of new anecdotes about the desperate state of some aspect of the Greek economy. I’ve stopped wasting time reading up on these depressing stories after my initial burst of articles, but things don’t change. For instance, Greek homeowners do not pay their property taxes. Yes, why should they? Tax inspection is weak and so are property records. With the tax system incapable of providing up-to-date information, the tax authorities have relied on using electricity bills to get homeowners to pay taxes. So they coupled electricity bills to property taxes. The latest news we hear is that there is now a new problem: homeowners do not pay their electricity bills anymore.
The European voters are beginning to grasp how bad their own elected and non-elected national and supranational representatives are handling this, and to what extent they are paralyzed by conflicts. We are afraid that the problem will spin further out of control before Greece leaves the euro, with a compromise being reached about EU membership.
We have argued since the start that Greece will in the end blame the outside world for its problems and that the earlier the truth will be faced, the better it will be for all. We are now well into that stage. Look at the way the Germans are portrayed and blamed. We wouldn’t be surprised by a bank run, not necessarily limited to Greece alone, by a military coup, or by more political strife. The military has much to lose from a euro exit, because the Greeks spend far more on their army than other EU countries. The reason for this is again the Greek tradition to blame others, in this case their arch-enemy, the Turks. The Turkish army is also strong.
Both Greece and Turkey are within NATO. A guarantee of Greek security by NATO could free up resources to make the country more competitive, but at that point the army could take over power. We are being informed of close ties between the extreme right and the army. This has all happened before, in 1967. There is nothing new, not even the total ignorance of history on both sides.
Greece needs to recover. On their own, so that they can blame no one. Let them have their drachme. Let them make the necessary and painful transition from a clientelist, clan-based society to a modern democracy. This won’t be easy and it will take time. Think in decades, not in years.
In the meantime, Western Europeans could take a long hard look at the euro-monster they have created. Let the Greeks go, but also, let’s get ready for our own reset, before the EU crashes under its own weight. We’ll finally have something to be thankful for.
En als u al dacht bij bovenstaande vlag, “hoort die niet lichtblauw te zijn?”, dan klopt dat. De donkerblauwe was tijdens het Kolonelsbewind een aantal jaren de officiële Griekse vlag. Nu maar hopen voor de Grieken dat een eventuele vlaginwisselactie over het EK getild kan worden…