Greece: Economy Collapse – Who is crying? Not the Civil Servants!

Economy Collapses – Who is crying over there? Not the Civil Servants!

The economic collapse for Greece is officially here, this very sunny Thursday, 22nd of April, year 2010. Higher budget deficit, higher spreads and ratings downgrading force Greece to ask officially the emergency loans from EU and IMF. As soon as possible? No! Yesterday!

The EU’s Statistics office, Eurostat, revealed the budget deficit of Greece as 32,34 billion (32.340.000.000) Euros, i.e. 13,6 % of Gross Domestic Product for the year 2009.
The markets pushed the 10-year bond yield up to 8.79 %. A fact that makes it unattractive for the Mediterranean country to gets credits and loans from the free market.
Within hours the Moody’s Ratings Agency cut the credit rating to A3 from A2, not excluding further possible downgrade. The markets seem to have an endogenous mistrust towards Greece’s accounting procedures and ability to pay back credits.

News Like a Bomb! Who cares?

The news fell like a bomb amid the general one-day strike of tens of thousands public workers protesting the austerity measures announced by the Greek government a while ago. But you think Greek public servants were scared or hurt by the bomb explosion? I can tell you, no, they weren’t.

Having attended thousands of protests myself when I was younger, I can tell you what happens when the protest is over.

When the protest is over… the party begins!

Some go shopping, some go to their kitchen & kids, but many end up in small restaurants drowning their fighting spirit in real spirits.

By Ouzo and Wine and mouth-watering starters the exhausted and –meanwhile hungry – protesters soothe their feet on a bistro chair and start exchanging views and make plans about their fighting future, about blocking further salary and bonuses cuts, even about organizing a possible uprising against any plan to impose additional measures if demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

When I was younger, at the last months of junta and the years after, we were protesting for more freedom, for more rights, for more air to breathe.

Nowadays the civil servants protest for no more government’s spending cuts. They consider the 30% cuts on their bonuses as more than enough.

The civil servants in Greece constitute a special caste of their own. Their number varies between 800.000 – 1.200.000 people. But even the official statistics can tell you exactly how many they are. Or how many hours do they work – if they work at all, if they go to work and for how many hours per day. Or what work do they do.

You might see a female civil servant having a contract, let’s say as an ‘asphalt worker’. Of course, the lady doesn’t wake up every morning at 6 to go on the streets and shovel asphalt. No, the lady sits in an office, preferably from 9 to 13. Or is it 9 to 12? She only happened to have gotten her job as permanent civil worker through a … friend or a relative or a friend of a friend or even through direct contact with a politician or parliament deputy, who definitely wants to be reelected in the next legislative period.
But why ‘asphalt worker’, you will ask? It is simple! Because that was the only ‘official’ job available in the area where our ‘money shoveling’ lady was living.

I have a friend, she is civil worker. Last year she decided deliberately she works too much after 24 years in service, so she decided to cut her duty hours. From 36 hours/week, she went down to 25. This year she works hardly 20 hours, some weeks even less. Her salary remains, of course, the same. Nobody controls the unit where she works. It is not only her!
I assume, the whole unit, 6-7 people, work deliberately “part time” and are paid “whole time”. There is simply and absolutely no control.

I know also another one, who takes one day off per week to clean her house. 56 days per year with the official leave being only 27 days!

They both justify the reduction in working time as “official and legitimate leave”.

The absence of any control in the public administration, the corruption and scandals, the salaries and almost tax-free bonuses of the civil servants have created a huge salary gasp and animosity within the Greek society. The private sector is under immense economic pressure with the markets to have dried out , with the unemployment on the rise and the future from ‘uncertain’ to ‘pessimistic’.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs

Can the civil servants blackmail the Government? Yes and No!

The civil servants build the voters basis of the two big political parties, the socialist PASOK and the right Nea Dimokratia, governing Greece for the last 36 years. If the current PASOK government breaks with its civil servants, it will find millions of non-civil servants Greeks voting for them. Yes? The answer could turn negative again. It is difficult for a government that brought the IMF and recession in the country to win another election. But if PM Papandreou breaks the eggs (civil servants and their rights) millions of Greeks might be willing to applaud him.

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