Writer Returns From Vacation in Greece – Shocked and Disillusioned

Jean Quatremer is an well-known author and a professional reporter with the French paper Libération. He recently returned from his summer vacation in Greece. Apparently shocked and disillusioned; tax evasion has become a national sport, 30 – 40 percent of the GDP is generated through the black economy and the country is run by a real mafia, he writes in an outburst on his weblog.

“Everywhere, signs of easy money are there: Easy money obtained through European regional aid, and the umbrella of the euro which allowed the state to borrow more than is reasonable, and hire several hundred thousands of civil servants who now owe their position to their political loyalty.”

Jean Quatremer

Personally, I don’t quite understand why Mr. Quatremer is so upset. He says he’s been on regular vacations in Greece  for the last 30 years, and what he’s seeing and describing has been there all the time. (I have been on vacation in Greece, too.). But maybe his anger represent the rude awakening for many Europeans who now realize they are being forced to pay for someone else’s party?

What’s also ironic, is that the things Jean Quatremer now is observing as signs of corruption, greed and mismanagement – the fleet of brand new cars, the roads and buildings under constant construction and the huge piles of cash behind the bars at the waterfront – not long ago was seen as signs of progress.

But that makes Mr. Quatremer’s commentary even more interesting, known for his “behind the scenes” books about the European community.

The scenery of Europe is obviously about to change.

Here are a few samples of Jean Quatremer’s writing:

“After a dinner attended by a dozen guests, we ask for the bill. It arrives on a piece of paper that has nothing official: I am surprised and asks if we can have tax receipt.  Gene my Greek friends. No, the boss does not provide official documents.  Is it possible to pay by credit card? Sorry, we truly regret that the tavern does not have a terminal ad hoc. In other words, here we are in the black economy: no receipt, only the liquid and therefore no tax or a tax symbolic. This tavern is far from an isolated case: none of the restaurants on the island does not issue official receipt, and you can pay in cash.”

Yeah, that’s the Greece we know…

“Prime Minister George Papandreou and Minister of Finance Evangelos Venizelos can not say that fraud is discreet,” Mr Quatremer notes.

Well, I don’t think they ever said that. Anyway, the French writer hammers on:

“The whole island seems to work in black: the work in the houses are without a receipt, as evidenced by a friend crossed the exit port of a bank with an envelope full of notes 100, 200 and 500 euros. “You understand is that or a 23% VAT.  Anyway, if you ask for an invoice, the work will fall behind.” While the bars on the waterfront issue receipts, “but only on the terrace, because it is in public. Inside, however, all is not received,” says a veteran.”

“Tax evasion remains a national sport, the black economy is estimated between 30 and 40% of GDP. If the tax was not corrupt and efficient, it is not (I refer you to Transparency International Chapter of corruption), much of the Greek problems could be resolved.”

“Without a thorough investigation, simply to walk through Greece, as I do during the month of August, to realize that this country is still far from Europe, far away.”

Wow! After 30 years?!

“I made several reports in Greece over the last eighteen months.  But it is a country I know for a long time to spend regular vacations (the first was in 1981, just after his accession to the EEC at the time). I saw the European structural funds flowing into this country, like a bottomless pit. If, since 1988, the Union paid the equivalent of 3 to 4% of Greek GDP per year, which is huge, much has been diverted: for example, the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, which is still not completed more than thirty years after the start of work has been funded two or three times the minimum, thanks to European funds.”

Interesting. That’s exactly what Polish analyst Jaroslaw Suplacz says is happening in Poland, too. (Except nobody cares about Poland at the moment).

See also: 

“The European money was mainly used to support consumption instead of being invested in infrastructure projects, research (Greece is the laggard in the EU public and private investment in this strategic sector ) or education to prepare tomorrow’s growth,” Mr. Quatremer writes.

“Everywhere, signs of easy money are there, an easy money obtained through European regional aid and the umbrella of the euro which allowed the state to borrow more than is reasonable, and hire several hundred thousands of civil servants who now owe their position to their political loyalty.”

“It is no accident that Greece imports three times more than it exports.  It is, for example, became one of the leading European markets for luxury cars: During my vacation, I’ve never seen, except in Germany, all of Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW (1 Series to X5), Lexus and all the rest .., A fleet (there are more cars per capita than in France) unrelated to the real wealth of the country.  In front of a modest house of the historic center of Ioannina, and I saw two German cars in the garage that were worth about 100,000 euros.”

“Europeans may have to pay a long time for the Greek error,” Mr. Quatremer concludes.

Jean Quatremer

Well, thank you very much! Some of us have figured that out, already…

However, the Travel Notes of a tourist in Greece” by Jean Quatremer is well worth a read, and herby recommended.

Original post here.

Google-translation to English here.

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2 responses to “Writer Returns From Vacation in Greece – Shocked and Disillusioned

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