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  1. Wealth
March 19, 2012

No Democracy of Cash in Greece

By Spear's

So, why do the Greeks want to be in the eurozone? Obvious, surely: it’s the rich who wanted the euro!

Before the EU Commission could even ratify the second Greek bail-out, the news was out that the numbers didn’t add up, and all because they couldn’t. Another bail-out will be necessary, and sooner rather than later, as Greek GDP plunged 7.5 per cent more than had been forecast.

All of which begs the question: When is a bail-out not a bail-out?

All of which begs another question: What is it then, if it’s not a bail-out? (Please send in your answers in a brown sealed envelope).

I ask my friend from Paris, who lives and works in Athens, what it is: ‘C’est une masquerade!’ Nothing in Greece is what it seems, unless you’re Greek, and a rich Greek too, she says, and explains it like this.

In Greece, the rich don’t pay their taxes, end of. They have a house in Athens, with olive nets over the swimming-pool to avoid detection from the air, and the latest impost on pools; then there’s the house on one of the islands, where no one pays any taxes anyway; then there’s the smart house or apartment in Paris, London and New York, or all three; all their money and assets and trust funds are in Switzerland and elsewhere, anywhere in fact except Greece, and none of their children need ever have to work.

In the smart restaurants, which are packed for lunch and dinner, they pay cash and the restaurateurs tear up the bills, leaving the taxman sucking on air, while the poor people are clobbered with 23 per cent VAT on food from the supermarket – compared with 0 per cent in the UK. Going to the beach now incurs a charge of €25, and parking is €8 per hour. The poor have found the cost of running a car has doubled, while the rich have up to six cars and actually have to pay those little taxes!

So, why do the Greeks want to be in the eurozone? Obvious, surely: it’s the rich who wanted the euro! They don’t want to pay their way round the world and buy their assets abroad with lousy low-value Drachmas; they want a nice hard currency to maintain their lifestyles, for goodness’ sake!

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And the 10 million tourists every year have to bring their nice shiny euros along and go through the low cost/high extraction system of the Greek tourist-trap industry.

It all makes sense if you’re rich or have a hotel chain, a shipping line or even a taverna or two, as one does. The rest just suffer, or can opt out for just €6, which is the cost of a ticket for the Acropolis; then they stay behind at closing time, and throw themselves off the heights to their death. This was running at five or six jumpers a night, and a news black-out was enforced, but now the polizei guard the precipice after closing time, mainly to get the overtime.

When the euro was introduced, two things were obvious: inflation would rise, and there would be winners and losers. But no one thought that the rich Greeks would get richer and the poor Greeks would get poorer in welfare-drunk, socialist-ridden Europe. There were meant to be no bail-outs, but Greece has had two already, and now cannot avoid a third; and then a fourth and fifth?

The breach between the rich EU-north and Club O’Med is set to widen, until disruption point is reached. Last week the EU withheld a €500 million loan to Hungary for breaching a whole truck-load of EU requirements. Ominously, Spain said they were unilaterally raising their EU-imposed deficit by 20 per cent and as far as they were concerned the EU could go stuff itself, as it wasn’t Spanish and had no right to tell Spain what its fiscal policy should be.

All the bureaucrats’ bits of paper – those ‘inky blots and patches and rotten parchment bonds’ – like the latest Fiscal Treaty are there just to blow your nose on, it seems. Already the split is threatening the north too, as the Finns and Dutch are showing signs of getting awkward about all these daft bail-outs, as they will have to pay for them – and now twice!

Now we learn that the EFSF has forked out a discreet €30 billion sweetener to the bondholders involved! And a Dutch report shows they would be better off without the euro anyway. How long until the eurocrats wake up and realise they have saddled a continent with a job-destroying, deflationary, debt-ridden, criminal-inducing, divisive plague called the single currency?

Just don’t hold your breath, or you might as well blow your last €6, save money at the Swiss euthanasia clinic, and throw yourself off the Acropolis now – but don’t forget to allow a few extra euros to bribe the polizei to look the other way. All of which nonsense reminds me of the wisdom of Lord Melbourne’s comment to Queen Victoria: ‘Abroad is horrid!’ Just like the euro, in fact.

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