Tag Archives: property tax

The Republic of Lasithistan

Amidst the implementation of the latest round of austerity measures, which were voted last Autumn but are “felt” slowly only now, there is a further shrinking of the so-called “state sector”. Part of these measures dictate the merging of regional hospitals, tax offices and regional universities.

The citizens of Crete’s easternmost region, Lasithi, have found a creative way to protest this shrinking which will mean either less money circulating in the province or simply making their lives more difficult. So they issued this protest paper resembling a passport (even though it actually looks more like the old driving licences). Welcome to the newly-found Republic of Lasithistan or, as they call it “the Devil’s Mother” (a colloquial expression in Greek that means “an extremely remote place”).

lasithistan

On the right side they say:

The take from us the Universities, the hospitals, the public services, the marinas, the salaries, the pensions, the unemployment benefits.

They are bringing upon us Industrial Renewable Energy (a disputed plan to place wind powere generators in many parts of the island, including areas of ecological interest), special property taxes, unemployment, poverty, depression.

Source: Radio Lasithi

A porn star’s political party and random thoughts of today

While the fate of my country is decided by unknown people on the other side of the planet and Twitter is like a sewer of rumours on how the PSI negotiations are going, here’s some random thoughts and news in brief.

The Public Power Company (DEI or PPC) has sent out the first 30.000 notices to electricity consumers who haven’t paid the bill which included the special property tax. This was a tax based on the square meters of each consumer’s home and was charged in the electricity bill so that everyone had to pay this. I know several people who had no money to buy petrol for heating and were warming themselves with the use of electrical appliances or, simply, firewood.

Nikos Fotopoulos greeting his comrades from the prosecutor's office window (older incident)

The chairman of PPC’s trade union, Nikos Fotopoulos, has called the PPC employees to disobey the order of cutting electricity supply to homes of unemployed and poor citizens. God knows how this can be done in practice. According to Ethnos newspaper, the notices have not been handed yet to the private companies which will carry out the work of cutting the supply.

According to the latest statistics (from the Ministry of Citizen Protection) the number of suicides between January-November 2011 reached 598 people. Last Friday, an 80 years old man set himself on fire outside the parking lot of the Greek Telecom office in Lefkada island.

Along with the best of the Greek youth that is steadily emigrating abroad in search of a job (preferably with a decent pay), Julia Alexandratou, the nation’s most famous porn star, has decided to move to Los Angeles and try her chances with the planet’s top porn industry. She also announced her intention to create a new political party. “You never know, people might vote for me just to state their reaction to the current situation” said the blonde porn celebrity. If she indeed gets any votes at all, I’ll feel that I belong in the most desperate country in the world. Greek blogger Pitsirikos expressed his disappointment that Greece cannot sustain financially not only its youth but also its best paid porn star. He also added that Julia has put things in the right order. She’ll go to try her chances in the American porn industry and, if things don’t go well, she’ll return to found a political party.

Finally, here’s how the paranoia of Greek politics and economy look like to foreign observers of things here. This is a short post from ZeroHedge based on an article from the German broadsheet newspaper Die Zeit.

As Greek standards of living nose-dive, loans to households and businesses shrink still further, and Troika-imposed PSI discussions continue, there is one segment of the country’s infrastructure that is holding up well. In a story on Zeit Online, the details of the multi-billion Euro new arms contracts are exposed as the European reach-around would be complete with IMF (US) and Europe-provided Greek bailout cash doing a full-circle into American Apache helicopters, French frigates, and German U-Boats. As the unnamed source in the article notes: “If Greece gets paid in March the next tranche of funding (€ 80 billion is expected), there is a real opportunity to conclude new arms contracts.”

Greece intends to buy tens of these EuroFighters

With the country’s doctors only treating emergencies, bus drivers on strike, and a dire lack of school textbooks and the country teetering on the brink of Drachmatization, perhaps our previous concerns over military coups was not so far-fetched as after the Portuguese (another obviously stressed nation), the Greeks are the largest buyers of German war weapons.  It seems debt crisis talks perhaps had more quid pro quo than many expected as Euro Fighter commitments were also discussed and Greek foreign minister Droutsas points out: “Whether we like it or not, Greece is obliged to have a strong military”.

Speaking of coups (again), here’s a short story that happened to me yesterday. I was outside a public health building and an old man approached me. He didn’t look very well. “Can I tell you something very serious?” he said. “On 21st of January, 4pm, there will be a military coup d’ etat. The tanks will get out in the streets and a curfew will be imposed. Prepare yourself, buy goods from the super market and, for god’s sake, don’t get out from your house!”. I asked his source and he replied very seriously “I was told so by my uncle who was an adjutant of Dertilis”, one of the most prominent members of the 1967-1974 military dictatorship who is still serving his life sentence. This is not to be taken seriously of course (I was in no position of checking the credibility of his claims), it’s just a note on how some people are losing it.

Men of Iron

This morning, I woke up and read the story of the Greek Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI and their occupation of a company’s building. It wasn’t just a random building of course but the data-processing center from which disconnection orders are issued. You see, a couple of months ago the Greek government has announced the levying of a new property tax (in relation to the square meters of the property) which would be incorporated in our electricity bills. Why the electricity bills? So that people HAD to pay the tax in order to avoid a very short-term and vital consequence, having their electricity supply cut off.

Nikos Fotopoulos greeted his comrades from the prosecutor's office window

The GENOP-DEI union’s leader, Nikos Fotopoulos, posed as a hero immediately after the announcement. He said that DEI’s workers would never allow such a thing to be carried out with the help of their hands. Some people wondered back then: Who actually governs this country? Can a trade unionist block an elected government’s policy? Well, today the government has tried to perform its own tour de force. Nikos Fotopoulos and 9 other GENOP-DEI union officials were detained after up to 80 riot policemen were sent in to end the four-day sit-in at the Public Power Corporation (DEI) data processing centre. Fotopoulos himself appeared before a prosecutor on charges of  obstructing the functioning of a public utility. The riot policemen arrested 5 more people in the event (3 employees in Ministries, a pensioner and an unemployed man). “We’ll always fail the exam of the course on Submission” shouted Fotopoulos from the prosecutor’s office window as another Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t believe that the new property tax is fair. Especially when exceptions have not been designed (unemployed people for example also have to pay this). The implementation of the law caused laughter in some cases, anger in some other. There was a big debate in September on whether churches should pay the tax, based on the square meters of the temples. And there was an uproar a couple of days ago when some earthquake victims (of a 1995 quake, who were promised to get preferential loans in order to rebuild their homes) were sent their electricity bill which included the new property tax, based on the square meters of the container-houses in which they are living since the 1995 earthquake. However I believe that what GENOP-DEI is doing with these shows of rebelliousness is just an act in order to gain public sympathy in their struggle to protect their guild’s benefits. See this post for another show by GENOP-DEI.

This trade union is not alone though. It is not uncommon during the past months to see trade unions which in the past were synonymous to either the interwoven political and business interests (e.g. journalists) or the state protectionism of special groups of public employees. Of course this is not to say that all trade unions function like that in Greece (but a lot of my friends would say that the majority of them do).

Strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks)

One example for what I wrote above is this. Given the opportunity of a 25-day long strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks) which has gone largely unreported by the Greek mainstream media (thanks to business relations, advertisement, you name it) the Union of Journalists of Athens’ Newspapers (ESIEA) has sent a newsletters showing their support to the workers at the steelworks. While I was writing this, I found another example. The Union of Employees at the Public Broadcasting Corporation (POSPERT) have stated their support to GENOP-DEI and demanded (?) the release of the arrested trade unionists. Here are the relevant newsletters (from ESIEA and from POSPERT), unfortunately only in Greek.

It’s fantastic! Greek trade unions seem to have remembered that they represent the working class of this country. Too bad they are a bit too late.

PS. A very common slogan during the demonstrations in Athens which aims to show the hidden agenda of trade unionists (who usually end up in the Parliament with one political party or another) is this: Αλήτες, λέρες, εργατοπατέρες. I’d be grateful if a Greek reader could translate it. :-)