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Thursday, June 23, 2005 

Murky Math

It's getting to the point where I'm almost afraid to read Greek news anymore. Every single day, a new payout scheme to some organization or other is approved by the government. If I lived in a country the size of Canada with huge natural resources or in a country like Germany with its huge manufacturing base, I might not be so worried. But this is Greece...11 million people burdened with a huge trade deficit, a huge national debt and rampant corruption. I used to feel like the proverbial axe was about to fall. Now I'm just counting the axes.

The latest axe is that of the IKA health & pension fund.

Chairman of the fund, Ioannis Vartholomaios, has stated that the implementation of the bank pension reforms under the Reppas law will cost IKA 9 billion€.
He further states that IKA's finances are in fine form with a surplus of 150 million€ to be expected this year. Government spokesperson Thodoros Rousopoulos also states that "the IKA pension is guaranteed by the Constitution". Just because it's guaranteed on a piece of paper, does not mean that there will actually be money to cover these costs especially when the Greek state, itself, owes the fund more than 3.9 billion. (Sept. 11, 2004) How does Vartholomaios consider his fund to be in "fine form" when his biggest contributor is also his biggest liability? It seems only Vartholomaios believes his sugar-coated lies regarding the fund's financial stability. Report after report from the EU, OECD and Greek economists have been warning of a major financial collapse in the next 15 years.

And mere months ago, Finance minister, Alogoskoufis submitted Greece's budget to bring it's debt within the EU Growth & Stability Pact's 3% limit by 2006. I'm not an economist by any stretch of the imagination but surely, it's quite obvious that a country this small cannot afford to be burdened with such high payouts. Here's a quick rundown of some of them:

And that list is probably just the tip of the iceberg with regards to Greece's financial obligations. There's probably a lot more to add to it that isn't even making the news. How does the government plan to find the money for all these commitments? With the state of Greek taxpayers' salaries, there's just no way we can afford it all. However, I doubt that this fact will do much to prevent the attempt to make us pay for their murky math.

Proof of that statement can be found in OTE's chairman, Panagis Vourloumis, declaration (aired last night on Greek news) that many of the large phone bill debts owed by Parliament MPs were written off on his authority because OTE had a profit anyway. Their debts were paid off by the Greek people. He had no right to do it. His "let them eat cake" attitude is sickening but it's a prime example of the attitude also prevalent in the echelons of government. Maybe it's time for the Greek taxpaying citizen to join the ranks of the rest of the strikes currently choking this nation.

hellas could return to actual democracy, and put the management of the country at the control of the electorate. when you do that you are masters of your fate, now, you are just political cattle, complaining about how little your masters care for anything but themselves.
demand citizen-initiated referendum!

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