Friday 29 August 2014

An Electrical Moral Dilemma

Anyone who lives in Greece, by now has a very good idea about how badly Greece has been governed over the last few years. They know, because, despite promises to the contrary, each month every householder in Greece has to pay a hefty tax to the government, via their personal electricity bill.

Why am I complaining? Well, mainly it is because I wasn’t around in Greece when these four armed spendthrifts were cooking the books and generally misleading the Greek public about their national finances. No, I was in Bulgaria running my own business as efficiently as possible - under the prevailing circumstances - and oblivious to the fact that Greece PLC was living far above its means.

All that we outsiders could observe about Greece, at the time, were certain rather self satisfied and overweight individuals, spouting a load of misleading statistics; no doubt bathing in the largesse of a generous Greek banking industry. And whilst the Greek Government was causing a tidy - if somewhat hidden – hole in their national budget, so were the indigenous Greek citizens themselves.

However, none of this is news these days, because, not only has the media milked this story dry, it has also become the rallying cry for Greeks who want to express their personal contempt, for the sanctimonious - and somewhat parsimonious - German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. But I am not writing about the German Chancellor or the disgruntled and impecunious Greeks, I am actually writing about the way the Greek Government has sought to collect this additional tax.

When the penny dropped, and a team of so called technocrats appeared on the government front bench – please read accountants – it was a well televised and emotional point. They implied that in time they could fix the Greek economy, but that the Greeks themselves would have to pay the costs. Cliches about pain and gain were cast into the ether and these government stalwarts started banging the drum of patriotism. Tears and a welter of ‘Greek Brio’ fueled the issue and when it was announced that a charge would be levied on on householders electricity bills, it was generally accepted that it was a matter of expedience.

‘Well,’ said the citizens of Greece, ‘that’s okay, but only this once,’ and most people coughed up 500 EUR and thought that was it. One concerned politician also confirmed in parliament - to his fellow countrymen and women - that it was a one off and that in future, any additional tax would be charged separately in order not – I presume - to pauperize certain members of the community. Well, the months passed and of course this never happened. Today I had to pay an additional 70 EUR hidden within my electricity account, something I have continued to do over the past few years. Add it up!

I suppose you could say that people have become used to it, but judging by the queues at the "DEN" (sic) office in my local town, this is not very true. 50% of Greek workers are currently unemployed and any social benefits which they enjoy hardly cover the rising cost of food, let alone household accounts such as their electricity bill. Fuel oil is prohibitively priced and although householders are turning to wood to heat their homes during the winter months, these days there is only a marginal difference in cost. So how do you read this somewhat aggressive story? I suppose if you don’t pay your electricity bill, they will cut you off; notwithstanding your age or infirmity!

How Byzantine this story must seem to those who don’t live in the Balkans. Repleate in ones comfortable home in the northern climbs of Europe, or across the Atlantic ocean, you might spare a thought for the impoverished few, and those of us who are forced to pay for a Greek debt which was steadily growing, long before we came to live here!

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