Why I have no sympathy for the socialist Greek ratbags

An article in?the?Daily Mail explains just why it is the Greeks have become broken arses…basically they are nation of corrupt bludgers.

Greece in teetering on the brink of ruin – and it is hard not to feel sympathy for the pensioners crying in the street and the mothers facing empty supermarket shelves.

Yet those reading a new book may find themselves feeling a little less compassionate towards the Greeks. It reveals an eye-popping catalogue of benefits scams and tax avoidance schemes that have robbed the public purse.

James Angelos’ The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins lays bare the corruption which filtered through all levels of society – from the islanders who pretended to be blind, to the families who forgot to register their parents’ death and the doctors who ‘earn’ just ?12,000 a year – yet live in Athens’ most exclusive neighbourhood.

It was the rumours of an ‘island of the blind’ which first bought Angelos, a journalist, to Greece in 2011.

He had heard that on Zakynthos, something like two per cent of the population were registered blind.

All was not quite how it seemed, however, and it transpired that 61 of the 680 ‘blind’ residents were quite happily driving around the island.

In fact, an astonishing 498 of those 680 were not blind at all – or even partially sighted.

But being ‘blind’ had its advantages – in particular, the ?724 paid in benefits once every two months, and a reduction in utility bills.

It was a scam which could be traced back to one ophthalmologist and one official, which was estimated to have cost the country ?9 million.

And, as Angelos discovered, it was only the tip of the iceberg.

How big is the problem of disability benefits fraud, Angelos asked the then-deputy health minister Markos Bolaris.

‘Very big,’ came the accurate, but short, reply.

Indeed, when those claiming disabilities were asked to present themselves at government offices so records could be updated, 36,000 failed to do so.

That translated to an immediate saving for the government of ?100m a year.

?100m is a fair chunk of what is owed to?the?IMF.

But the fraud was certainly not confined to just disability benefits.

When the government chose to take a closer look at who they were paying pensions to, they found a slightly suspicious 8,500 pensioners had surpassed the milestone age of 100.

An even closer look revealed, 40,000 pension claims were fraudulent. It seems people were forgetting to register their loved ones’ deaths.

It’s not that these scams were not known about before, of course.

A Daily Mail investigation in 2011 revealed the subway system was essentially free for the five million residents of Athens – because, with no barriers, it relied on an honesty system which few were honest enough to use.

It described street after street of opulent mansions and villas, surrounded by high walls and with their own pools, which, on paper, were the homes of virtual paupers.

They were all allowed to declare their own income for tax purposes – and officially, they were only earning ?12,000 – or a paltry ?8,500 – a year, below the tax threshold.

Apparently, only 5,000 people admitted to earning more than ?90,000 a year – prompting one economist to describe Greece as a ?poor country full of rich people?.

The lengths these doctors, lawyers and businessmen would go to to hide their wealth from the government was, it has to be said, impressive.

According to official records, just over 300 homes in Athens’ most exclusive neighbourhood had swimming pools, and had paid the resulting tax for such a luxury.

But when the government decided to have a look on Google Earth, it became clear these residents hadn’t been totally honest.

The real figure for swimming pools in the area is believed to be closer to 20,000.

But instead of coming clean, there was a boom in sales of camouflage tarpaulins to conceal their?existence?from the tax inspectors flying over the gardens.

And that is just a the tip of the iceberg on fraud, then there is the dreadful incompetence.

The Guardian also looks into the despicable bludging and free spending of Greeks. Addicted to debt, hopeless corruption and fraud…no wonder they are broke.

After a long period as one of the EU?s main recipients of investment aid, the funds started to run dry. Brussels switched its support to new joiners in the east and the Baltic nations that had entered the EU and wanted to join preparations for the euro. Nevertheless, Athens kept on spending, helped by its decision to join the euro in 2001. The new currency kept borrowing costs down and made it easy to secure funds from commercial banks at rock-bottom interest rates, increasing its dependence on cheap loans to fill the spending gap. In the 10 years before the financial crash, public sector wages doubled and departmental spending soared. Already high defence costs continued to soar, propelled by years of antagonism with its neighbour Turkey. In 2011, three years after the crash, the country was still spending ?4.6bn (?3.3bn) on defence, representing 2.1% of GDP against an EU Nato average of 1.6%.

A report by the EU in 2014 estimated that Greece lost a third of its VAT revenues in fraud and avoidance (only Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia lost more). With a VAT system that has six bands, tax experts say it was open to manipulation. Shipping, one of the main industries and the source of Aristotle Onassis?s vast fortune, was known as a tax-free zone. Income taxes and corporate taxes, traditionally the subject of huge avoidance, collapsed in the wake of the financial crisis.

And what did they do to “solve” the?crisis? Well they kept on spending…and elected a government that promised even more spending.

 

– Daily Mail, Guardian

 

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