Friday, March 7, 2008

Greek Life

After having the electricity go off for the past three days now - twice today (Friday), I have learned something about Greece that I hadn't considered before. The first time we lost power was at 10:30 in the morning for half an hour. The next time was at 5:00 pm for three hours.

The Public Power Corporation employees are striking (causing rolling blackouts all over the country) because of the government's desire to consolidate the pension plans. Like the social security lockbox, the pension funds here have been looted by the politicians (actually, the politicians loot everything they can here) and the employees are afraid that the extra funds they pay for pensions will go the way of all the other pensions once they are consolidated.

But here's the epiphany I had: Why does this country accept anarchist youth and thieving politicians? Because the adults, under the banner of their trade unions are just as anarchistic and they also steal from the public. Just because you worked for the Public Power Corporation you should get free electricity for life after you retire? Give me a break. And then, if you are lucky (or strike long enough, whichever comes first) you can get your job designated as hazardous and get to retire early and collect a larger pension.

And everyone expects to pay a bribe for the most mundane activity (we wanted a garbage can closer to our home and were expected to pay 50 euro for the priviledge; we refused and waited three years until one finally showed up) to being asked to pay a 400 euro bribe to get our car through customs (we brought it from the US and paid over 3,000 euro in taxes). One pays a bribe to doctors if they want to get medical treatment, even though they have insurance.

Because most civil employees are hired to provide votes for the party in power, they have no idea about how to actually do their job.

We were told we owed 16,000 euros in back taxes for our automobile. True, it is a Jeep; but it is 10 years old and we paid taxes on it when we first brought it into the country. Because my Greek American husband has Greek citizenship we did not have to pay taxes on the car for the next three years - but the entire staff of the local tax office owes their jobs to patronage.

We resolved the issue, after five months, by paying our Greek lawyer 500 euros to get a ruling from the Ministry of Economics saying what we had been saying all along. I don't regret paying my lawyer for his work on our behalf, but I do hate that the local tax office doesn't know what the hell they're doing.

And now the dollar is worth $.48 and since all of our funds are dollar-based, it is getting a little tougher. But we're going to tough it out.

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