Greek plight a warn­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

RON Wadsworth’s let­ter on Satur­day cov­ered some of the rea­sons for the Greek fi­nan­cial melt­down but he did not touch on the main prob­lems in Greek so­ci­ety and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

Over the past three or so decades the in­ept Greek gov­ern­ments charted a fis­cal pol­icy that had to in­evitably lead to the present Greek tragedy. In the late 1900s, the then Greek fi­nance min­is­ter Ste­fanos Manos al­ready saw that with all the money Greece was bor­row­ing this profli­gacy could not con­tinue unchecked.

He re­alised Greece was not pro­duc­ing and ex­port­ing enough to re­pay the money. The gov­ern­ment was ply­ing work­ers with bonuses just for ar­riv­ing at work. In the mean­time the Greek gov­ern­ment was loath to col­lect taxes in case it up­set vot­ers. This was es­pe­cially around elec­tion time. Not pay­ing taxes be­came a na­tional pas­time. If you were rich you just had to put in a call to the Fi­nance Min­istry to get a tax con­ces­sion. The state air­line would hand out free tick­ets to vot­ers. And so on.

In 2001 Greece was al­lowed to be­come a mem­ber of the EU and dropped the drachma. What the mem­bers of the EU, France, Ger- many etc did not re­alise un­til much later was that the Greek gov­ern­ment for years has been run­ning faulty ( or even per­haps fraud­u­lent) ac­count­ing sys­tems to hide the fact that the Greek deficit when en­ter­ing the EU was 14 per cent, not 4 per cent. The sit­u­a­tion has been wors­en­ing since, with Greece get­ting loads of new cash now it was a mem­ber of the EU club.

By 2009 the Greek gov­ern­ment was be­com­ing des­per­ate for cash. Con­se­quently it granted a Chi­nese com­pany a 35- year lease on two of the port of Pi­raeus’s three ship­ping ter­mi­nals. The vol­ume of goods go­ing through the port dou­bled but this in­crease was mainly han­dled by the Chi­nese ter­mi­nals while the Greek ter­mi­nal re­mained mainly idle. The Chi­nese run their ter­mi­nal with ca­sual labour. At the Greek ter­mi­nal, work­ers still get a high salary but sit around idle most of the time. And so the des­per­ate saga of the Greek tragedy goes on and on.

Work­ers who were re­tir­ing at 55 on a gen­er­ous pen­sion now have their pen­sion cut to be­low sub­sis­tence level, the min­i­mum wage will be low­ered dras­ti­cally, un­em­ploy­ment has al­ready blown out to more than 20 per cent and public ser­vice po­si­tions have been cut.

With the China/ Aus­tralia Free Trade Agree­ment, Chi­nese com­pa­nies, pro­vided they are work­ing on projects worth more than $ 150 mil­lion, will be able to bring in their own work­ers and are not re­quired to abide by Aus­tralian work­ing, English- lan­guage or wages stan­dards ( Ar­ti­cle 10.4 para­graph three ChAFTA).

With our high wages our work­ers will not be able to com­pete with Chi­nese work­ers. Our Fed­eral and Queens­land debt is ever grow­ing and is be­com­ing un­sus­tain­able. We’d bet­ter be care­ful that the Greek tragedy does not be­come a tem­plate for an Aus­tralian tragedy. TI­BOR PI­ET­ZSCH,

North Ward.

OFF- SHORING: The Chi­nese run two Pi­raeus ship­ping ter­mi­nals.

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