Greek plight a warning
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,
OFF- SHORING: The Chinese run two Piraeus shipping terminals.