Yanis Varoufakis is a liar – Greeks are not poor by any measure

We know by looking into the eyes of the hungry in the streets of our cities…”  The man is a writer.  A blogger.  A tweeter.  But surely not the material of a finance minister.  Maybe this whole thing is just a scheme on his part so he can sell more books.  Maybe he wants to charge as much as Bill Clinton for speeches as soon as resigns.  (It shouldn’t be too long the way he is behaving so far!)

No, Greeks are not poor.  By any measure.  This is a complete and blatant lie.   Greeks are fat, lazy and spoilt by politicians like Mr Varoufakis.   It is pretty amazing that an educated economist is not afraid to lie like this.  Does he not know how to measure poverty?  No, Mr Yanis (with one “n” because you are a brand, not a normal person), poverty is not measured by the unemployment rate.  Lazy people might well be unemployed, in a country like Greece where many jobs are “not good enough” for many Greeks anymore.   People working the black economy state themselves as unemployed.  Even businessmen lately I have been talking to, after seeing the tax situation, are declaring themselves unemployed in the hope of a better treatment from the erratic State.  Unemployment is the result of incompetent governments afraid to make much needed changes, not austerity per se.

And Mr Varoufakis is just making it worse.  His month of antics has cost us dearly.  Not only in capital flight, not only in missed opportunities, not only has he made us the laughing stock of Europe but – worse of all – he has instigated the worse kind of nationalism possible in this situation.  He has made Greeks proud to be the laughing stock of Europe.  With a logic similar to our childish prime minister, cheap tricks and no ties, he has blatantly disregarded all protocol, lazily refused to do the work necessary and cheaply accused the media or other European leaders for his own lack of skills.  This government has known for a long time they would be in Brussels for this negotiation yet it didn’t prepare anything at all.   It got the whole world looking at us ….and deciding that Greeks are indeed lazy and cantankerous, unstable immature children; all about pomp and words, not deeds.

Germans know very well that Greeks are not poor.  They know that Greeks own their own houses, most also own a country home in those wonderful places others come on to holiday.  Many also own a third or fourth plot of land or house at a village or an apartment they rent out in the center of town.  They know that while they cycle to work or take public transport, Greeks lavishly drive themselves around everywhere.  Greeks don’t buy used things.    Any way you look at our lifestyles they are richer than most other Europeans.   Greeks still spend big time on many retail luxuries which other Europeans have outruled a long time ago.   In fact, Mr Varoufakis would have a pretty hard time as an economist, finding an indicator of “Greek poverty”.  Which is probably why he uses vague statements about “too much austerity”.  Too much for who?  With what end result in mind?   In a country with a disproportionate number of pensioners, does he have the balls to deal with real problems like that or will we sit around wrangling about minimum wage and other publicity stunts?

We all know what needs to be done. The problem is not the size of the debt.  Even if you wrote it all off tomorrow, Greece is in trouble.  Those “structural changes” everyone goes on about are very far away.  Not because Mr Varoufakis doesn’t know what needs to be done.  Everyone knows what needs to be done.  Everyone outside of Greece that is.  Because most Greeks are still waiting for handouts.  Our huge civil service voted for SYRIZA hoping they would repeat the old PASOK trick of lending money and giving it away.  Like little children, most Greeks think austerity is just a bad dream.  SYRIZA gave them a campaign of “hope” but they might as well called it a campaign of “wild dreams”.

Well only 1/4 of Greeks voted for SYRIZA.   They claim “democratic mandate” but they don’t have anything of the sort.   There are a lot of us who know that our country needs probably 20-30 years of slow and painful change before the next generation emerges truly globalised and ready for the way the world really works, not expecting handouts from anyone.  It is change which has to happen inside us first and foremost.  No IMF, or Troika, or whatever word for it Mr Varoufaki chooses for foreign help, can change that.

You are no messiah Mr Varoufaki.  You are a liar.  Enjoy the limelight while you have it.



A conversation with your average Greek about debt

-This debt is unsustainable.

What do you mean?

-We have to get more loans just to pay the interest!  We will never manage to pay it off!

So what do you propose?

-Write all the debt off so we can recover.

But that would mean other Europeans having to pay for it.

-Yes, but you are all richer than us.  We have very very high unemployment.

You do, eh?  Are those unemployed looking for work?

-Of course they are!

So why are the cafeterias full of young people paying three times the price of a coffee in other European cities?

-That’s not typical. There are really poor people in Greece in other areas.

Oh really?  Can you show me one indicator that supports the idea that Greeks are poor?

-We don’t need indicators.  People are dying on the streets.

More than they are dying in other European cities?  This is inaccurate.  You have the least deaths of homeless people or elderly people.  They are living better than others.

-Because we care!  We have extended families.

No, because half the population lives with handouts from the Public Sector.  Either pensions you receive much earlier than other Europeans, or civil servant positions which are ridiculous…

-We work more than other Europeans!

Well, it must be pretty unproductive work, because your country keeps needing more money.

-Not our fault.  All our governments are sold out to the Americans and to Europe.  They suck our blood and get richer as we get poor.

Well, why are you allowing your government to make fools of you in Brussels now, demanding ridiculous things in the most rude way possible?

-They are heroes!  Someone had to stand up to the bloody Germans!

Germans have less than 50% home ownership.  Greeks are above 90%.

-That is simply a different culture.

Germans share car rides, prefer buying used clothes, have price differentiation in their product lines because they shop around for price.

-Well that’s just miserable!  We Greeks don’t bother with rubbish like that.

My point is, Germans and other Europeans try to save their money.  If they don’t have enough money, they go to the movies on a Monday afternoon when it is cheaper, they split their restaurant bills based on what they ate.

-What an awful idea!  In Greece we don’t scimp like that!  We order plenty food and then fight over who will pay the bill.

Oh really?




Playing the Eurovillage idiot

This is not a political statement.  A lot of friends and business associates are calling me these days and I thought I should put together the kind of reassuring statement our government is not.  From a communications point of view the country is in chaos.  Nobody is controlling the agenda and -though improved – Greeks are still passionate political beings.  Social media doesn’t help.

There are two, equally ridiculous, conflicting conspiracy theories.  One is that SYRIZA is a pawn of Putin.  They are expecting the Russians or the Chinese to bail us out.  The far right is also on their payroll.  It is a plan to ruin Europe.  Funnily enough that is the target of the Americans too!  In the other conspiracy theory, the previous government was ordered to step down by the US and the new one is secretly working with the Americans now….in order to ruin Europe!

All this would simply be foder for the Facebook village idiot to rant about were it not for the fact that the new government is indeed the perfect tool for anyone wanting to control the Euro.  The unflappable Merkel has overseen six bail outs so far quite successfully.  She is treating us like a patient wise old aunt, waiting until we run out of money before she gets involved.   Greece however is the country in her EuroFamily that produces such extreme stock market reactions.   Greece is the “heart”of Europe, it is a symbol.   It seems to swing out of the spotlight and then back in again.   One crazy statement from Greece (with the appropriate amount of international media attention) and currencies around the world bounce up or down.

Our politicians don’t help.  The current government is naive, disorganised and bold.   That is a dangerous combination.   Our finance minister, much like our prime minister, seems to show a blatant disregard for most institutions.   This isn’t just about bright shirts or the lack of ties.  The new government is walking an equally erratic line within its borders when attacking the church or taking back promises it made to civil servants.   Alexis Tsipras could say “we will dig a trench and float off into the Mediterranean until we get to Cuba”and nobody would bat an eyelid.  We all know he will change his mind the next day.

So don’t worry about Greece.  It is best to treat us like the village idiot.  With patience, humour and the persistence we need.   All hopes of a miracle solution, whether inside the country or internationally, are simply confusing matters.  This country needs to work hard for many years to become competitive in the global economy.  There are many of us who understand this, unfortunately none of them make it to government.  In the meantime, Greeks will do what Greeks do best since ancient times:  from Persians to Philip of Macedonia, the first world war or Byzantium, we are always making conspiracy theories about how “foreign powers”are trying to destroy us…