NEWS ARCHIVE - DECEMBER 2012
December 31, 2012
"Seventy-one deputies from the three-party coalition signed the proposal to indict Papaconstantinou for allegedly tampering with a public document and breach of duty — offenses that would carry a maximum 10-year jail term, according to legal experts."
December 30, 2012
"Over 4 million square meters have flooded near Lamia, in central Greece as Sperchios river has overflown. "
"The online link between shops and enterprises to the ministry’s database means that payment and receipt of value-added tax will be conducted in real time, putting an end to the VAT statements that companies currently have to submit at regular intervals.
...this technology constitutes a much more effective tool for combatting tax evasion than anything that has been used to date, as it allows the ministry to be informed in real time of a transaction at the same time as a receipt is issued by an enterprise. "
Photo: Odeon of Herodes Amphitheatre
Athens Greece, at the Acropolis. Learn more.
December 29, 2012
Three Greeks were arrested on suspicion of trying to defraud the national tourism board, police said on Saturday, and the finance ministry is investigating a suspected 12-million-euro hole in the state agency's books.
....Cronyism, political meddling and lack of accountability are central causes for the endemic corruption that has bedeviled Greece, leading to fiscal profligacy, financial crisis and an international bailout in 2010.
A corruption scandal involving a list of thousands of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts took a new turn Friday, focusing on the former finance minister who received the list on Greece's behalf.
Cousins of then-finance minister George Papaconstantinou were among the names of Greeks associated with 2,062 offshore banking accounts on a list that France handed over to Mr. Papaconstantinou in 2010, a Greek court official and a senior government adviser said Friday. A version of the list that was later handed to prosecutors didn't include three accounts associated with the relatives, the officials said.
Mr. Papaconstantinou, who negotiated Greece's first international bailout and was unpopular in the country for presiding over the government's first round of austerity measures, has denied any wrongdoing. He hinted that others were seeking to incriminate him.
Second cars, and in some cases even the one and only vehicle, are the latest casualties of austerity in Greece – with cash-strapped owners unable to pay their car tax. With other more pressing bills, many can not afford the levy and are queueing up at tax offices to hand in their licence plates – around 15 percent more than last year.
December 28, 2012
December 27, 2012
Unemployment in Greece has spiralled in the last year, with more than half of young people out of work. The things that were once considered basics are now luxuries, says the Reverend Jimoh Adebayo.
He and his church are helping to run a soup kitchen in central Athens that is feeding around 700 people each day.
Church in the Street was set up four years ago to assist destitute migrants but after the country plunged into economic crisis, more and more Greeks are lining up for the free lunch.
Malcolm Bradshaw, of the Anglican Church in Greece, a co-founder of the project, estimates that around a third of the recipients are Greek.
With pensions halved, it is not surprising that many of them are pensioners, but more recently some younger faces have started to appear.
December 24, 2012
December 23, 2012
December 21, 2012
"...668 fragments were found buried in a plot of land in central Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, following a 70-year search for the remains of graves smashed when the city's main Jewish cemetery was destroyed, the Associated Press reported. "
December 20, 2012
"While eurozone nations tighten their belts, America may face the bleaker future as its debt troubles pile up.
With the international community warning again that European debt woes could knock the wind out of the U.S. recovery—and by extension Canada’s economy—and spark a global recession, there was a rare bit of good news coming out of the Continent. A new study by the Lisbon Council and Berenberg Bank suggests that it’s Europe, not the United States, that is on the more stable path toward long-term economic prosperity.
Since 2009, the eurozone’s most troubled countries have been making significant gains in slashing their deficits, overhauling their civil service, cutting labour costs and fixing their trade balances. Far from showing evidence of “moral hazard,” the authors say countries that were bailed out by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund “are working hard to make sure that they deserve such support and can get back onto their own feet again fast.”
The same, the report warns, can’t be said of the United States, which faces a $1-trillion deficit for the fourth year in a row and where its lawmakers are deadlocked over how to handle the prospect of $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to automatically take effect at the end of the year, known as the fiscal cliff. Economists are predicting that once again Congress will be forced to raise the debt ceiling by February and that the country may need a fourth round of quantitative easing (in which the Federal Reserve pumps money into the economy by buying Treasury bonds). "
December 19, 2012
Greece is facing a critical year that hinges on its three-party ruling coalition sticking together and following the bailout program agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in the Financial Times on Thursday.
"We can make it next year if we can stick to the program agreed with the EU and IMF. The break would be if the political system finds the situation too difficult to handle," he said in an interview with the newspaper.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has implored Greeks to endure austerity measures, which have dented its popularity since it won power in a June election.
Greece faces a "humanitarian crisis" over its mistreatment of asylum-seekers and migrants, according to a report by Amnesty International.
The group accuses the government of detaining thousands of refugees, including many children, in "shameful [and] appalling" conditions.
Greece is a major gateway for migrants from Asian and African countries as they try to enter the European Union.
Civil servants in Greece staged a 24-hour strike Wednesday, as thousands gathered to protest new pay cuts as well as suspensions that are expected to lead to layoffs.
The strike led to public transport stoppages in Athens, while public hospitals were running on emergency staff, and other public services were disrupted.
"According to French historian Bernard Pierron, 80 percent of the country’s Jewish community was exterminated in the Nazi death camps.
“Kisses to the Children,” a recent documentary by director Vassilis Loules, revives memories of Nazi barbarism. The film is made up of stories narrated by people who got very lucky as youngsters: They missed the train to Auschwitz. Of course they still carry inside them great sorrow for the parents, brothers, sisters and cousins they lost. One of those children, Marios Sousis, now 74, gave Kathimerini his own personal take on history’s absolute horror. "
December 18, 2012
"The credit rating of Aegean nation, which is struggling just to get through the winter, got an upgrade today from S&P, to B-/B from “selective default” after Greece’s recent distressed debt buyback.
Make no mistake, this upgrade is a reflection on the eurozone rather than Greece. The powers that be in Europe have decided to keep Greece in the fold, and that alone means Greek debt is more or less, um, stable."
"GREECE has raised 1.3 billion euros ($A1.64 billion) in a three-month treasury bill auction with demand to spare, returning to short-term debt sales after completing an EU-funded debt buy-back last week."
"...Taxation is a particularly tough issue to deal with. “The Greek Tax administration is falling short of targets and is not well placed to meet end-2012 benchmarks,” said the quarterly report from the EU task force, which aims to help Greece implement its reforms.
...In the short-term, the disbursement of the next batch of loans will keep Greece from going bankrupt and triggering more turmoil in financial markets.
Athens will get a total of €49.1 billion ($64 billion) between now and March, with €34.3 billion paid up front in a transfer that a Greek government official said was completed late Monday.
December 17, 2012
"...Venizelos' idea was a new tax on property, levied via electricity bills to make it hard to dodge. The public were furious and the press echoed the outrage, labeling the tax ‘haratsi' after a hated levy the Ottomans once imposed on Greeks. The name stuck and George Papandreou, then prime minister, felt compelled to plead with voters: "Let's all lose something so that we don't lose everything."
But not everyone would lose under the tax. Two months ago an electricity industry insider revealed that some of the biggest businesses in the land, including media groups, were paying less than half the full rate, or not paying the tax at all. Nikos Fotopoulos, a union leader at power company PPC, claimed they had been given exemptions.
"It was a gift to the real bosses, the real owners of the country," he said. "The rich don't pay, even at this time."
This time the media made little fuss. "The news was not covered by the media ... because media owners were among those favored," Fotopoulos said later. "
An EU task force helping Greece overcome the financial crisis that brought it to the brink of bankruptcy said Athens still has trouble dealing with old, outstanding tax claims. With 2 months to go in 2012, it was still about a billion euros behind the EU target of recovering 2 billion euro ($2.6 billion).
In a report it said Greece made only 88 audits of large taxpayers, well short of a 2012 target of 300, and 467 of "high-wealth individuals," below a 1,300 target.
Overall, though, EU Vice President Olli Rehn said Greece was tackling problems "with determination and resolve."
"The government is planning the creation of a “committee of wise men” to crack down on widespread tax evasion, which continues to thwart Greece’s efforts to emerge from its debt crisis. The former head of National Bank, Vassilis Rapanos, is slated to head the new body, Kathimerini understands.
...In an interview with Kathimerini, the European Commissioner overseeing taxation issues, Algirdas Semeta, said Greece could boost annual revenue by around 10 billion euros if it limited tax evasion to the EU average."
“Collective trauma” is how Pieper described the society whose bottom had been pulled out from under it. “Men are particularly hard hit by the crisis,” Pieper said, as their pay had been decimated, or their jobs eliminated. They’re seething with anger at the utterly corrupt system and a kleptocratic government that have done so much damage to the country; and they’re furious at the international bailout politics whose money only benefits big banks, not the people.
December 16, 2012
December 15, 2012
'A Greek magistrate on Friday ordered that the oligarch Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who was arrested Thursday on charges of embezzlement and fraud, be remanded to custody after visiting the 40-year-old businessman in an Athens hospital. Mr. Lavrentiadis, the former majority stakeholder in Proton Bank, which is alleged to have issued $900 million in bad loans to keep other businesses afloat, is the focus of an investigation that has highlighted concerns about deep-rooted corruption and crony capitalism in Greece. "
December 14, 2012
December 13, 2012
"Greece hasn't known too many good days recently, but Thursday was certainly one of them. Euro-zone finance ministers finally agreed to the immediate release of €34.3 billion ($44.8 billion) of aid to Greece, with another €14.8 billion following by the end of March. That followed a successful €31.9 billion bond buyback this week, which has halved the amount of bonds outstanding.
Talk of "Grexit," or a Greek exit from the euro, is no longer in vogue. Instead, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says the country now has a major chance to exit from its crisis. But despite continued recession and sky-high unemployment, Mr. Samaras may be right.
The fresh loans may help ease a liquidity freeze in the economy. "
December 12, 2012
What's Happening:Greece’s two-stage default - Reuters
"...Are you sure you don’t want to just take those 33 cents?
Joseph Cotterill makes a good point: with the Greek banks now having been taken out of their bonds, the low-lying fruit for any future restructuring offer is now gone, which means that in any future restructuring, Greece is going to be dealing with hard-nosed hedge funds rather than complaisant domestic banks. That said, Greece might conceivably now have a nuclear option in its back pocket: the comments to Cotterill’s post are full of speculation that Greece might be able to find a way not to cancel the bonds its buying back. In which case it could use its new supermajority vote to cram down a very bad deal indeed on any holdouts."
The Difference Between the USA and Greece - BaltimoreSun
"The only difference between the U.S. and Greece is that the European Union stops Greece from printing money and going deeper in debt. "
"The economist Larry Summers has invoked the analogy of the Vietnam War to describe European decision-making. “At every juncture they made the minimum commitments necessary to avoid imminent disaster – offering optimistic rhetoric, but never taking the steps that even they believed could offer the prospect of decisive victory.”
CommentsThis strategy needs to be inverted – and Greece offers a real opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Instead of driblets of relief, a sizeable package, composed of two elements, is the way forward. First, as Lee Buchheit, the attorney who oversaw the Greek private restructuring, has proposed, maturities on official Greek debt could be greatly extended. A simple structure would be to make all debt payable over 40 years, carrying an interest rate of 2%. This would move Greece and its official creditors beyond the continuous angst that now prevails."
Greece privatizes state lotteries for 190 million euros - Chicago Tribune
"The Greek government's private-sector creditors agreed to sell billions of euros of bonds back to the government at sharply discounted prices, the crucial piece of a plan negotiated last month with the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund to bring Greece's debt burden down to manageable levels, officials said Tuesday.
The proposed transaction fell slightly short of the plan's targets for debt reduction, leaving some doubt about whether the euro zone and the IMF would release long-delayed loan payments desperately needed by Greece's cash-starved economy. "
Olive Oil and the future of Greek business acumen - WSJ
"There is also a serious failure of marketing. Despite being the world's third largest olive oil producer, Greece, unlike Italy and Spain, has failed to market and brand its product. Greece sells 60% of its olive oil in bulk to Italy, where it is packaged and sold at a premium."
December 11, 2012
"Greece reported the first trade balance surplus in at least 12 years. Greece's exports exceeded exports by 2.2 billion. Is this good news? Certainly not.
Does this figure matter anymore? The details matter more than the headline number.
A trade balance surplus adds to GDP, while a deficit does the opposite. In Q3 2012, when Greece reached this surplus, it also reported a year over year GDP contraction of 6.9%, quite depressing. In addition, the main reason for this surplus was a big drop in imports - Greeks are consuming much less due to the ongoing depression."
December 10, 2012
"There is a one in three chance that a future Greek government might decide to exit the euro zone, Standard and Poor's EMEA ratings chief said on Monday.
However, such a move would have extremely negative consequences and would likely deter other countries from following suit, he said.
Moritz Kraemer, head of sovereign ratings at S&P for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said Greece would not leave the euro zone under its current government and even if it did exit at some future date the euro zone was unlikely to break up."
December 9, 2012
"Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother's kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.
"I feel like my life has slipped through my hands," said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. "I feel like I'm dead." For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unravelling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighbourhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.
Karagaitanaki's family can't afford gas to heat their home this winter and will rely on electric blankets in the chilly northern Greek city. They live on the €785 ($1,027) a month their mother collects monthly from their late father's pension. Two years ago, Karagaitanaki sold her jewellery for €3,000, which she gave to her two sons. Her blood sugar is rising because she can't afford the meat and vegetables her doctor recommends, instead eating rice and beans she gets from the Greek Orthodox Church.
"We are waiting every month for my mother's pension," Karagaitanaki said. "If my mother dies, what can I do? Everyone here is dependent on their parents' pensions."
Egyptian immigrant Waleed Taleb says demanding his unpaid wages in Greece came at a heavy price; 18 hours chained and beaten by his boss, a stint in jail and orders to leave the country he calls home.
One of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who toil in Greece’s black labor market, Taleb had just finished cleaning the bakery where he worked one November morning on the island of Salamina when he sparked his boss’s fury.
What followed would end up symbolizing how migrants have become among the biggest and most defenseless victims of Greece’s economic crisis, facing racist attacks, police apathy and a system that punishes them rather than their assailants.
The baker and two others fastened an 8-meter long metal chain around Taleb’s neck with a lock and dragged him to a stable, he said, where another man joined them. There they tied him to a chair, tightened the noose and punched him while he drifted in and out of consciousness, he said."
December 7, 2012
"The European Union and International Monetary Fund have demanded the cash-strapped country reform a tax administration widely seen as corrupt and ineffective before they disburse about 9 billion euros ($11.7 billion) in aid early next year.
...The finance ministry plans to raise the corporate tax rate on profits to 26 percent from 20 percent, said the official, who declined to be named. In dividends, the rate would fall to 10 percent from 25 percent currently.
The ministry's proposals include reducing tax brackets to three from eight and imposing a 40 percent top rate on incomes above 40,000 euros. "
December 6, 2012
"At home, Greek businesses have earned a reputation as inefficient and unproductive. On the high seas, they are among the world's most competitive.
The success of the industry—which operates largely outside its home country's environment of bureaucratic red tape and protectionism—is evidence, analysts say, of the changes Greece needs to make to pull itself out of its crippling debt crisis. Among those changes, they say, would be a reduction in the many quotas, permits and other restrictions that aim to protect Greek industries but at the same time make them uncompetitive on world markets.
Greek shipping companies are weathering the global economic storm better than many of their German, Scandinavian and Japanese rivals and, flush with cash, have started refurbishing and even expanding their fleets."
"The Greek Statistical Authority said Thursday that 1.295 million people were recorded as being unemployed in September, pushing up the jobless rate up from 25.3 the previous month and 18.9 percent a year earlier."
December 5, 2012
"With 30,000 homes a day cut off for unpaid bills by the state, corruption has become a matter of survival for many Greeks "
"The countries worst hit by the European financial crisis are also perceived as being among the most corrupt in Western Europe, and those perceptions appear to be getting increasingly negative, an international watchdog said in a report released Wednesday.
Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index shows Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece with the lowest scores in Western Europe.
On a scale newly introduced for this year’s report, where 0 is “highly corrupt” and 100 is “very clean,” Spain was ranked highest of the four in place 30 with a score of 65. Portugal followed in place 33 with a score of 63, followed by Italy in place 72 with a score of 42 and Greece in 94th place with a score of 36.
The survey, which was first conducted in 1995, draws on a variety of sources that capture perceptions of corruption, including World Bank and World Economic Forum assessments, the African Development Bank’s governance ratings, and Transparency International’s own Bribe Payers Survey. "
Some of the other scores:
North Korea: 8
New Zealand: 90
United States: 73
Greece: 36 (94th place, lowest in Europe)
North Korea: 8
December 4, 2012
"Greece began the 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) repurchase of bonds maturing from 2023 to 2042 yesterday, offering a higher-than-planned price in order to increase demand for the debt-reduction measure. "
December 3, 2012
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