Week 341

5th July, 2015

A long day and a long night. We were in Greece all of the time – well virtually. Lots of Greek friends were in touch – I even got a tweet from Skiathan Man! We followed every twist and turn even from our running machine at the Health Club. The one thing you can say about the Greeks is that they don’t lack courage. I still believed they would nudge ‘Yes’ right up to the point when a huge majority for ‘No’ was announced. Just shows how much I know. Now they have to live with the consequences.

6th July, 2015

We danced all night in Syndagma Square via CNN and BBC News, sharing the display of defiance with the revellers but silently offering thanks to Plutus. A 60% – 40% result will offer a dire future to our older friends and may well decimate Greeks wealth and property values but Greece has oscillated between far Right and Far Left, Generals and Communists, over a long history. It is unlikely to stop now. It is the chance of the Left to support the Poor and to tax the Wealth creators to pay for it. Oh hell!

syn2 syn1

Ironically, it is exactly one year ago today that a Greek gave us oodles of his cash for our house on Sifnos and we certainly wouldn’t have got that now. Even if we had, the terrible exchange rate would have severely reduced it and we wouldn’t have been able to get it out of the country. It may even have been sequestered by a desperate, left wing government. The British Government are issuing emergency advice to British travellers and to ex-pats who receive their pensions through Greek banks. British tourists are rejecting Greece largely but those go are advised to take lots of cash and all required medicines.

7th July, 2015

We have been through and stayed in Calais, France so many times since the 1980s and we have charted the rise of the ‘illegal immigrant’ problem as they swarm the roads, fields and parks in desperate attempts to board vehicles bound for Britain .

immigrants

We have spent a great deal of time in Patras, Greece over the past fifteen years and watched the port become over run by ‘illegal migrants’ desperate to get on ferries to Italy.

Yesterday, we were utterly amazed to find the ‘illegal migrant’ problem had arrived in leafy Surrey. As we drove through West Byfleet, dodging the Mercedes, BMWs and Porches, we both drew the same conclusion at seeing a group of young men sitting on the grass verge and seconds later, we flagged a police Jeep down and he shot off to pick them up. Illegal immigrants in West Byfleet? They’ll be allowing citizens to chew gum next!

In the mean time, a meeting of all European Heads of State has been called for Sunday to co-ordinate the humanitarian aid the Greek people will need in the event of an exit from the European Union and the Euro and the collapse of their banks. The infrastructure is already collapsing. More and more enterprises in the private sector, from all fields and around the country, are telling staff not to come in to work, cutting their hours or even placing them on forced leave. Tourism professionals in northern Greece and on the Aegean islands have been forced to start accept transactions with international holidaymakers in their own national currencies. The cash economy emerging after the closure of Greece’s banks is beginning to paralyze the country’s vital olive oil industry as farmers demand cash for supplies that distributors are unable to pay.

Amusingly, the new Greek Finance Minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, who was expected to formally produce new proposals, arrived with three or four lines hand written on a sheet of hotel notepaper. The Council has demanded firm proposals by Thursday which will be agreed or rejected on Sunday. At that point a decision will be made one way or the other. 

8th July, 2015

A warm but windy day of sunshine and showers. I’m ashamed to say that this is the third consecutive day without a trip to the gym. I have been feeling a little under the weather although that is no excuse. Circumstances have also conspired against us as well. I will definitely do an hour and a half tomorrow.

Watched the Budget speech and analysis today. Public Sector workers are having their pay rises pegged to 1% per annum for the next four years. As a Public Sector worker for nearly 40 years, I predict a riot! People who retire from the Public Sector, like teachers, have their Pensions protected from the exigencies of inflation but tend to be left behind by the general growth in wages of the colleagues they have left in work. We have been retired for just over six years in which time pay has been frozen. We have gained considerably compared with our still working ex-colleagues. In that respect, there has never been a better time to be retired although investment income has been negligible. It looks as if we will more than hold our own for the next four years as well. Thank goodness we’re not Greek!

9th July, 2015

The world is an unstable place as those in Greece and Tunisia will acknowledge. Today, the Greeks are expected to submit their survival proposals to the EU. At the same time, the British Government is ordering the evacuation of British tourists in Tunisia. Lucky Brits enjoy sun, strawberries, champagne, Wimbledon and Test cricket. The contrast couldn’t be greater. We have some similarities. Kathimerini reports today:

Coast guard officers intercepted more than 1,650 undocumented immigrants off various islands in the Aegean within 48 hours.

and the BBC was announcing illegal immigrants running across the M25 in Surrey this morning. However the scale of the problem bears no comparison. The Greek economy is close to being destroyed. It is reported today by Reuters that some Greek banks have been so damaged by the chaotic situation that they may have to be closed and merged with stronger rivals. The big four — National Bank of Greece, Eurobank, Piraeus and Alpha Bank — might be reduced to two. The Greek economy is in ruins. We put hundreds of thousands of Euros through the NBG and Piraeus Bank.

nbgs

My blood runs cold when I think of what could have gone wrong.

10th July, 2015

Wonderful day of sunshine and Test cricket. England set Australia a total of 412 runs to win with two days remaining. Can’t help thinking a bit more persistence and a few hours batting tomorrow could have raised that to an unassailable 500 but it should be enough. Greece are going to capitulate and agree terms that 61% of the referendum vote rejected 5 days ago:

  • VAT or Sales Tax will rise to 23%.
  • Tax reductions/exemptions for the islands will go.
  • Measures to ensure tax on earnings is paid will be introduced.
  • Preferential tax treatment of farmers in the income tax code will go.
  • Introduce reform of the income tax code for farmers and the self- employed.
  • Subsidies for excise on diesel oil for farmers will be abolished.
  • Heating oil subsidies will be halved.
  • The hated solidarity surcharge on earnings will be raised.
  • Property tax rates will be adjusted upwards.
  • Increase the rate of the tonnage tax and phase out special tax treatments of the shipping industry
  • Reduce the expenditure ceiling for military spending by €100 million in 2015 and by €200 million in 2016.
  • Raise the corporate tax rate from 26% to 28%.

Pension Reform

  • Create strong disincentives to early retirement, including the adjustment of early retirement penalties
  • Lift the retirement age to 67 years.
  • Integrate into ETEA all supplementary pension funds and ensure they are only financed by own contributions.
  • Increase the health contributions for pensioners from 4% to 6%.
  • Broaden and modernise the contribution and pension base for all self-employed, including by switching from notional to actual income.

In addition, there is much on privatisation of major, state industries including the power industry and on the breaking of professional monopolies and freeing up of the labour market. Few advanced, post-industrial countries would find much to object to in these changes but one has to wonder what the referendum meant when all of most of this was roundly rejected.

11th July, 2015

What a lovely day – warm (26C/79F) and sunny and delightfully free of any pressing engagements. We did an hour at the gym but the rest of the day was given over to the Test Match. England really looked like a team and they humiliated Australia. Only rightly. Coincidentally, it looks like that is exactly what Europe is about to do to Greece. Today is the anniversary of our leaving Sifnos. I thought I would be sad but, with everything that has happened, I am just relieved. I just imagine how we would be feeling now in the current climate if we hadn’t sold.

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