Friday, August 24, 2012

Despite crisis good times still roll for Greek MPs

"The state means justice and the people seek it at all costs'- Protesters outside Greek parliament.

Antonis Samaras is currently doing the rounds in Europe, attempting to persuade fellow EU leaders that Greece needs two more years to fulfil the obligations required to receive the country's next installment of cash to avoid bankruptcy. Samaras has even personally guaranteed that Germany will be repaid in full, though how intends to do this is another matter, unless there is a secret coda in Steve Job's will that no one has been aware of till now.

On the other hand The PM's attempt to prove the Greece has changed and become a more fiscally responsible country have been undermined by even high ranking members of his own government, who upon being elected to parliament seemingly appointed to state jobs just about every member of their extended family not in jail or the grave. Case in point being New Democracy heavy weight, Vyron Polydoras, who secured a government job for his daughter after Greece's first national elections in May. Polydoras was also involved in a scandal during the Karamanlis administration after he used his position as minister for public order to have them transferred to his own offices.

However, this misuse of parliamentary privilege is not limited to New Democracy as such moves have been made PASOK, Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn MPs, with a total of 150 extra employees being added to the public payroll at a cost of nearly 3,000,000 euros annually.

At first sight such nepotism and pork barrel politics would seem to give fodder to Greece's foes in Europe who argue that Athens refuses top take reforms of its bloated state sector seriously. However, such accusations ignore the fact that these abuses are the preserve of the those at the top of Greece's deeply corrupt political system. For ordinary Greeks, the cuts in spending are very real indeed. A telling example is that while 187,000 people registered as jobless receive unemployment benefit (usually less than 400 euros a month), 734,000 do not. Hardly evidence of profligate welfare spending and for those who remain unemployed for more than 12 months there is little in the way of financial assistance form the State.

The irony of the situation is that during Greece's deeply divisive dual elections in summer much of the European political leadership and the financial establishment across the world exerted as much influence as it could muster to shore up support for New Democracy and Antonis Samaras, and in doing so helped maintain the corrupt political empires that helped Greece get so deeply into debt in the first place. 

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