Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Night in Greece - Video

Four years after the murder of 15 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer in Athens, people took to the streets across Greece to remember his death and the uprising that broke out in his name in December 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greek pensioners brave the cold to demand free health care and cheapermedicines

Greek pensioners brave the cold to demand free health care and cheaper medicines by Teacher Dude's BBQ

Other demands included;

 "Cheap heating oil for the People" - signed a Pensioner from Thessaloniki

A reference to the fact that the government has raised the cost of heating oil by 40% in an attempt to raise tax revenues., a move that has led to a drop in consumption of up to 90% in some areas as turn off their central heating despite sub zero temperatures in northern regions of the country.

The situation is further exasperated by the national oil refining cartel, protected by Greek law that means local fuel prices are among the highest in the EU.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wood, winter and wishful thinking

Greeks dress up for Carnival. by Teacher Dude's BBQ

Nowadays it's now known as fuel poverty, but to older generations it is huddling in cold, damp rooms round an inadequate fire hoping that either the weather will get better or that you'll have enough money to see out the cold spell. With temperatures in Greece dropping below zero in the mountainous northern regions, one of  the government's most hated tax measures is starting to take effect. The decision by Athens to raise heating oil taxation by 40% seems to have backfired as millions decided not to turn on their oil fired central heating and turned to other sources, most notably, wood burning stoves, leaving the government with 790 million euro shortfall.

In the northern region of Kozani heating oil whole sellers reported an 85% drop in demand in comparison  with last year, whilst businesses supplying wood, sometimes logged illegally are seeing a roaring trade as Greeks seek to heat their homes using traditional wood burning stoves known as soumbes.

Already the effects can seen in large cities with atmospheric pollution on the rise, leading many Athenian twitter users to remark on the use of wood along with heavy fog  effected the capital last night.

The government's decision to raise tax on such a basic item as heating in a country with shrinking wages and a 25% unemployment was justified on the grounds that the Greek treasury was losing billions in revenue due to more lightly taxed heating oil was being used in the place of diesel. However, the move has ended up punishing the 2/3 Greek households that till recently relied upon heating oil and lead to the drop in overall government revenues as people simply buy less oil.

However, tax hikes are just one part of the equation, and is with so many other economic issues in Greece the role of cartels and monopolies controlled by local oligarchs has to be taken into account.Like many other tax increases the use of cartels means that any increase in cost is pressed directly onto the consumer and not absorbed wholly or partially by the supplier as would normally happen in a free market with fair competition. In a recent report the IMF similarly warned that one of the reasons for Greece's inability to improve competitiveness was lack of competition in the local oil refining industry which kept prices much higher than in other EU countries.

As today's 'Reuters article on the role of oligarchs in the Greek crisis points out such closed shop policies are only possible with the connivance of the politicians in government who often pass legislation designed specifically to protect the interests of the small group of Greek tycoons who continue to exert a stranglehold on the economy and are defying all attempts to get them to take their share of the nation's tax burden.

Despite repeated claims by prime minister, Antonis Samaras that the worse is over and that Greece will return to growth in the near future the same corrupt political elite that helped create the current debt crisis now poses, to the disbelief of many inside and outside Greece as the country's saviours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We're as mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more - European youth's message to the EU

Following drug cartel scandal HSBC's new head issues statement

Alphonse Gabriel Capone, Group Chief Executive, said: "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The Mafia of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes. Over the last two years, under new senior leadership, we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing matters.

"While we welcome the clarity that these agreements bring, ensuring the highest standards wherever we do business is an ongoing process. We are committed to protecting the integrity of the global controlled substance system. To this end we will continue to work closely with governments and regulators around the world."
In the past several years, the Board of Cosa Nostra - HSBC Holdings plc has taken decisive action to direct management to fix past shortcomings as they have come to light. Since 2011, with new senior leadership teams in place at both Cosa Nostra - HSBC Group and Cosa Nostra - HSBC North America, Cosa Nostra - HSBC has taken extensive and concerted steps to put in place the highest standards for the future.

The Department of Justice has recognised these efforts in the DPA: "Management has made significant strides in improving 'tone from the top' and ensuring that a culture of compliance permeates the institution. The efforts of management have dramatically improved Cosa Nostra - HSBC Bank USA's and Cosa Nostra - HSBC Group's Bank Secrecy Act / Anti-Money Laundering and Office of Foreign Assets Control compliance programmes."

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Greek childhood.

The video was taken last night during a march to mark the 4th anniversary of the murder of 15 year old Greek teen, Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer in central Athens. The killing set in motion a wave of protests and clashes which last for over a month.

I found the video disturbing considering that these same riot police units who stopped to tussle the little kid's hair had spend the morning attacking high school pupils who'd held their own protest march.