It’s the peak of summer in Greece with temperatures each day up around 40 degrees and fire tenders are stationed on every roadway around the nation waiting to catch firebugs and idiots who throw lighted cigarettes from their cars. Because the countryside is tinder dry and fires devastate farmland, offenders are arrested on the spot and face heavy fines or jail, or both.
My question is this: if the Greeks have tough laws to fight arson, why don’t they have similar laws to apprehend and jail those who want to burn their economy?
The bail-out plan which comes before the Greek parliament this week will do more damage to the lives of the Greek people than any fire.
It will rip 11.5 billion euros out of the economy in the next two years, axing the jobs of tens of thousands of public and private sector workers, slashing their salaries and pensions, and driving up the cost of living.
The financial commentators call it a “rescue plan” when it is nothing more than a punitive recipe for a social catastrophe.
To come into effect, the measures require the support of parliament. They have been concocted in secret meetings over the past month between the tripartite government (New Democracy, Pasok and the Democratic Left) and the troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF).
Things to watch: will the three-party coalition survive or will it fly apart forcing the third election this year; will MPs from the three governing parties follow the party line or join the Opposition (Syriza) in voting down some of the measures.
This is a test of the authority of the Greek Parliament which has been discredited in the eyes of most Greeks by years of corruption and incompetence. It will also test the fragile European Union and whether it can risk chucking Greece out of the Euro zone.
Then there’s the Greek people, militant, angry and unwilling to cop the blame for bad debts for which they are not responsible.
FISHING FOR FOOD
August is the month that Greeks and other Europeans take their annual holidays. All personal, social and professional problems are quietly put aside and industrial-scale hedonism (from the Greek word hedone which means pleasure) takes centre stage.
Many Greeks are faced with such financial hardship that holidays are a luxury they cannot afford so for the past couple of years they’ve been staying at home.
However, it is noticeable how many of them are taking up the noble art of fishing for family holiday recreation: it is cheap, the country is surrounded by the Mediterranean and there are still fish to be caught if you have the patience and skill.
Before you can throw a line in the water, you need an amateur fishing licence. Last year 37,000 people applied for licences and a further 49,272 had their licences renewed.
The licence allows holders to fish from boats in the ocean, rivers or dams and for each licensee to take 10 kilos of fish home for the frying pan. Nets are prohibited.
Most amateur fishermen abide by the rules but there are miscreants who have paid fines amounting to more than 400,000 euros for various offences.
Some of the worst offenders are spearfishermen who feel they have a god-given right to shoot fish of any shape or size. The other day I watched a spearfisherman remove a tiny fish from his spear and then bash it with a rock before diving back into the water to hunt for more.
Some of these idiots won’t be happy until they have removed all life from the waters of the Aegean. Many of the professional fishermen also play a cat-and -mouse game with the coastguards illegally using nets to catch fish. It’s short-sighted, profit-driven stupidity which they have picked up from their cousins in the fishing industry in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.
NEW TORYISM ARRIVES
The new generation of Tory Party thrusters have published a blueprint for the future of Britain entitled “Britannia Unchained”. It is basically regurgitated Thatcherism that includes the following:
“Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.”
Many Britons don’t get the opportunity to work at all. Officially there are 2.56 million jobless which is an unemployment rate of 8 per cent. Not everyone in the UK is impressed by the Etonian-style analysis in “Britannia Unchained”: a recent poll showed 59 per cent of voters disapprove of the Cameron government’s record while just 25 per cent approved. It also showed 44 per cent of people would vote for the Labour Party, while 34 per cent would vote Conservative and 10 per cent Liberal Democrat.
The timing of the release of the Tory document was delicious. It coincided with a front-page headline in The Independent which said:
“What recession? Top bosses’ pay rockets.
“Executive pay rises by 8.5 % to average of £3m – as everyone else’s goes down.”
The article by Nick Goodway said: “The pay of Britain’s top company bosses has soared still higher, rising by more than five times that of ordinary workers, who have seen a decline in wages in real terms. The total pay package for the typical FTSE 100 chief executive hit £3m for the first time in 2011 – an average rise of 8.5 per cent – despite it being a brutal year for investors.”