All take and no give

on . Posted in English texts


Let’s say that we all agree to applaud the protesters of GENOP, the union of Public Power Corporation (PPC) employees, and support their action against the state-owned company’s privatization as foreseen in the midterm fiscal program. Let’s also say that we agree with the fact that their social security fund was bankrolled with 710 million euros by the state last year alone and that this year it deserves to receive the same amount. But, before they get this cash, we first need to agree that the it is the Greek state that needs to pay. Because whatever some say, neither Russian nor Chinese investors will be willing to pay for PPC’s social security fund. The state will have to do it, so maybe this cost needs to be factored into the mathematics of the midterm agreement.

Let us also say that we all like having our railways and, because we have always been very generous and ecologically minded, we decided in 2010 to give the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) funds worth 917 million euros. This cost also needs to be factored into the midterm agreement because we are the ones enjoying the sight of our trains trundling past (albeit empty), rather than possible Thai investors. So, let’s add this cost to the additional 156 million euros the company will need in 2011 if the memorandum is applied to the letter.

Some time ago, we all agreed that we wanted a national air carrier, even if this cost us around 350 million euros a year. Over the course of the decade that we spent discussing the issue of whether or not Olympic Airways had to go private, the Greek state was saddled with a cost of around 3.5 billion euros, on top of the massive debt accrued by the company, which we still have found no solution for. Good for us for being so determined to have our own national carrier; the problem is that this sort of determination cannot be readjusted, it just has to paid for.

So, what is all the fuss in the media, many of which have described the new measures in terms such as “tsunami of taxes,” a “tax storm” and even “extortion” (the left-wing Avgi newspaper went so far as to describe the new tax measures as “savagery”), all about? Don’t they know that the time has come to pay the bill and that the money we don’t save from cutbacks in public spending will have to be procured through taxation? Let’s say for argument’s sake that the ruling party and the main opposition are reluctant to push through massive spending cuts because they have their supporters to keep happy. Who are the media people trying to keep happy by whinging about spending cuts as well as about taxes?

The biggest ideological victory scored by our crazy brand of leftism is that it convinced us that there really is a world in which we can spend without paying taxes. That the path to fiscal virtuousness is metaphysical and can be reached by battling against all nebulous forms of state waste except the ones that are being proposed by the government.

“Should we privatize OSE, which is bleeding (at least) 150 million euros a year?” “No,” they say, “because it is environmentally friendly.” “Should we close down technical college departments that haven’t seen a single student in years?” “No,” they say, “because education is the future.” “Should we merge some of the 24 universities in the country?” “No,” they say, “because the local economies will suffer.” “Should we stop offering five langauges at school?” “No,” they say, “because some student may want to learn Swahili.” “Should we merge schools in villages that are five kilometers away from one another?” “No,” they say, “because this will inconvenience the children.” “Should we raise taxes so that we can pay for all of this?” “Are you crazy?” they say. “Why not cut spending instead?”

And so the threat of bankruptcy continues to loom.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday June 29, 2011