Long-time reader George from Greece with an interesting analysis on today’s referendum. The most important part,
Neither Greece’s ailment, nor its cure, is its currency, be it the euro or the drachma, or its pensions—whether too low or too high. Greece’s cancer is the purely domestic cleptocracy which has been sucking the country dry for at least thirty-five years (that’s as far back as I can remember, older people may argue this may have been going on for much longer).
You think I’m exaggerating? Let’s look at a couple of interesting statistics, then. According to the UN comtrade database, supplies of bunker fuel to ships in Greece went from $25m in 2008 to $1.72bn in 2014. Exports of fuel to Turkey went from $204m in 2007 to $3.2bn in 2014. Exports of fuel to FYR of Macedonia in the same timeframe went from $72m to $614m (for comparison purposes, Greece’s GDP in 2014 was $238bn). Either Greek refineries got very efficient during the crisis, or other refineries in the region got very inefficient. Or it could be that the cleptocrats, hit by the crisis in their other half-way legit businesses, had to supplement their income with other, far more lucrative ventures.
Well, according to the New York Times “Organized crime […]dominates the black market for oil in Greece; perhaps three billion euros (about $3.8 billion) a year of contraband fuel courses through the country. Shipping is Greece’s premier industry, and the price of shipping fuel is set by law at one-third the price of fuel for cars and homes. So traffickers turn shipping fuel into more expensive home and automobile fuel. It is estimated that 20 percent of the gasoline sold in Greece is from the black market. The trafficking not only results in higher prices but also deprives the government of desperately needed revenue”.
According to the FT “George Papandreou, the former socialist premier who resigned in 2011, also claimed he was brought down by oligarchs after a finance ministry campaign to tackle widespread fuel smuggling revealed a Balkanwide scam that cost Greece €3bn a year in lost taxes”.
Its’ not as if these smugglers are thousands. They’re a handful of people, whom practically every Greek knows by name. Unlike Escobar, they are not in hiding. They’re feted by the press as “successful businessmen” and are being sat next to prime ministers.
There are similar tales to be told in natural gas, energy and practically every sector that has to do with the state.
If that’s not fixed, irrespective of whether the currency of Greece is the euro, the drachma or the rupiah, there can be no end to Greece’s plight. Is Tsipras likely to fix that? I’ll give you a hint: most Greek oligarchs voiced their support for Tsipras ahead of the general election in January. Before him, they of course supported his predecessor.
What I think, is that Greeks should be united in their fight for the rule of law and against the cleptocracy, and not divided over a referendum on an absurd question. That division, however, serves the cleptocrats well—they can go about their usual ways unnoticed. Whoever said “divide and rule” knew what they were talking about.
Many people in “the West” simply cannot imagine the amount of corruption in the average Balkan country. They fail to understand that this is only possible BECAUSE the state plays such an important role in everyday life, i.e. “making the state stronger” in Greece by improving “tax collection” only worsens the situation. As my Neapolitan friends always tell me when I question them about the mafia: “ma, Il mafioso piu grande e lo stato”….
Of course, the fight for “social justice” and the increasing socialization, i.e. politicazion, of societal questions we are witnessing here will lead to similar results. As I always tell my Austrian and German friends when asked about my opinion on Greece: “(If nothing changes here) Greece is before us, not behind us…”