By now, much of the world is aware of Greece’s nasty little secret! After many years of “creative” accounting and hiding the facts, it is now apparent that Greece is in debt, big time. Since fudging on taxes is a way of life here, and many Greeks routinely under-report their actual incomes for tax purposes, it will come as no surprise to learn that the government, too, has been less than forth-coming! In a country where cheating on taxes is so common that two different receipts are offered by merchants (one in which taxes are paid and the other in which everyone agrees to “look the other way”), the recent news that the national debt is far higher than has been heretofore reported is not at all unexpected.
By now, you also know that the European Union, after years of patiently working with Greece to get its deficit and debt under control, has, at last, begun to apply blunt pressure on this “birthplace of democracy.” At the recent, called elections, the presiding political party was cast out and the new governing Grecians, themselves having been in power often in the past, have gallantly announced that the dirty house will be cleaned and that strict procedures are in the works. Austerity measures are hastily being pushed through the Parliament in a manner that will probably negatively impact the cash flow of almost everyone in the short-run, except, presumably, the cash-strapped government!
In a country where strikes and protests are as ubiquitous as pigeon poop, the announcement that taxes will be raised and that certain benefits will be curbed, such as lifetime job security and 14 months of salary each year for government employees, has been met with howls of public protest. In the “Grecian formula,” everyone strikes over something or other. The trash collectors, bankers, physicians, bus drivers and lawyers strike routinely. Often, general strikes are scheduled far in advance, sometimes for reasons that are not yet clear at the time of the strike forecast; the assumption is that sufficient grievances will have surfaced in the intervening months, so that a future strike will be necessary.
It is fittingly ironic that the most recent group to announce a strike in Greece in the protest over the need to levy more taxes has come from the tax-collectors themselves! While the logic of this could be difficult to extrapolate, the bean counters in the tax offices are taking off a couple of days in deference to the “unfairness” of the proposed, rigorous government measures.
If it were not so serious, I would be laughing!