I’ve just had a week’s holiday in Crete – lovely, thank you for asking. The town we visited – Chania, in the west of the island – seemed to be doing well, albeit slowing down for the end of the season, and our taxi driver confided that he had earned more this summer than for many years. But the number of half-built and abandoned properties that we passed on our way to the airport, and the number of permanently closed shops and restaurants, suggested that even in relatively prosperous Crete, the Greek economy is still struggling.
And one possible explanation for why they just can’t seem to pull themselves out of the mire is given in this article by an economist. As she points out, in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 (the 2014 version is due soon), Greece ranks lowest of all EU Member States – on a par with China. Football match-fixing seems to be a particular issue in this soccer-mad nation. There is also the common (and seemingly widely accepted) concept of “fakelaki” – small, petty bribes given, for instance, to jump waiting lists in hospitals or to get a construction licence expedited. And looking at the first “EU Anti-Corruption Report” (published in February 2014 and due to be updated every two years), 99% of Greeks think that corruption is widespread in their country. In the report chapter specifically on Greece, the problem that the country has when dealing with corrupt politicians is explained: “According to the Greek Constitution, MPs can be prosecuted or arrested only with prior approval of Parliament. If no decision is taken within three months, the approval is deemed not to have been granted. The decision does not have to give reasons… The Constitution provides for a complex and time-constrained procedure for submitting legal action in the case of offences committed by ministers, former ministers and state secretaries, which creates considerable obstacles to prosecution… In addition, ministers and former ministers also benefit from an extensive statute of limitations regime which – in combination with lengthy proceedings – poses significant problems for prosecuting corruption in Greece.”
No wonder then that the people of Greece were thrown into mourning in early October 2014 when the death was announced of their “riot dog”. Loukanikos (Greek for sausage) began hitting the headlines in 2010 when he started to appear, as a stray, in the front line of anti-austerity protests, and he was present at most protests until he retired in 2012 to live with a family in Athens. Maybe Greece needs to find an anti-corruption mascot to replace Loukanikos and rally the troops – although perhaps not a fat cat…
Do you ever just relax on holiday?
Tee hee – to be honest, it’s a rare day when money laundering isn’t on my mind!