Thursday, August 30, 2012

Through my eyes

When I came to Greece, I knew what I was giving up, and why I was giving it up.  I never imagined that I would regret my decision, nor have I done so, until now.  I know you may all be aware of what is happening in Greece, but I would like you to see Greece, if I may, through the eyes of someone  living through the crisis, and dealing with people who are living through the crisis.
Since January of this year, the lives of people in Greece have changed dramatically.  Undoubtedly, something, somewhere was deeply wrong, but the whole nation had been feeling the strain of Greece's deficit for a long time.  The late nineties and the beginning of the millenium were scarred by the stock market "bubbles", money laundering and bribery between the German Siemens company and the greek government.   2004, the year Greece held the Olympic Games, marked the true beginning of the end in Greece.  The whole country watched in awe as the Athens was transformed, with new buildings, stadiums, roads and pavements in order to be able to endure the influx of visitors to the Greek capital. Euros upon euros were spent on changing the look of the city, and lining the pockets of those already rich enough to afford ringside seats at each of the events.  As in every country, the only people who reaped the benefits were those who were able to get in on the game, while the rest of Greece crowded around TVs to watch the splendor of the opening and closing ceremonies - proud of their roots.  Once all this was over, and the cents were being counted, it was already too late.  Too much damage in too short a time.

Greece's main economy, tourism, has actually never been given the boost it should have been given,. Now, many people will say that Greece is an expensive country to holiday in.  Yes, it is, however, although the tourism industry supports the country and its economy, the country does not support this industry, and in 2012 the warning bells rang as negative advertising, rises in fuel prices, cuts in transport to and from the country and general propaganda gave tourism a sharp slap on the cheek.  Some may say this is an unfortunate order of circumstances, others may shout out conspiracy theories, but whatever the reason, Greece's main industry was hit from every angle and in every way possible.

The second main income, agriculture, has been going downhill for the last 20 years.  The reasons for the decline in this sector  varies, depending on who you talk to.  Some people blame the size of farms, others the poor education of farmers, and many say that it is due to the "stiff" competition from other countries.  The reality is quite different.  Taking, for example, the production of olive oil.  Greece is a main producer of, not only olive oil, but extra virgin olive oil.  The cost of farming, producing and exporting this oil can be immense, but the actual money that is given to the farmer is extremely small in comparison.  This year oil producers are selling extra virgin oil at around 2 euros per litre.  Considering all the costs of the middle men, the packaging and exporting of Greek Oil, it reaches foreign shelves at around 6 times that price.  No initiatives have been put into place to expand the olive oil industry - to make it an industry instead of just a raw material producer.  No incentives are given to farmers to motivate them into producing more, experimenting more, or even learning more about this product.  Some produce and export oil illegally, and by illegally I mean with no quality control, no standard packaging, no hygiene rules.  To be able to export legally, the costs are just too high, and with the price of oil being as it is,  farmers do not see it as a worthy business.

Greece is now paying for its over expenditure in the public sector, which is still bleeding the country dry, even after so many measures.  But, yet again it is the uncalculable mistakes in the state system that has led to the downfall of a nation.  Wasted money on faulty military equipment, well bribed public officials, overpaid underqualified civil servants, unsupervised school systems and parallel private after school systems, legal illegal immigrants, taxes upon taxes upon more taxes for the unpaid taxes, politician's off shore anonymous bank accounts - all these things have led to the Greece we know today. The Greece that works on a "who you know basis" even today, even now, even after the strain.

Despite all this, the pressure is being felt by all. The European leaders and European banks are succeeding in bringing a nation to its knees, not by battling corruption or reaching the core of the problem to find the solution, but by "hitting while the iron is hot".  In all wars there is a strategy.  There is a strategy in this war too. We, the pawns in this chess game, are not yet aware of what is going on.  We may never know what is going on, but neither can we be expected to just sit back and watch.  The foreign media has succeeded in doing what it has been told to do - sabotage.  However, it is uncertain if the results are those that they have been expecting.  It is thanks to foreign travellers that Greece can say that its tourist industry did not collapse, although much was done to steer things in that direction. 

Who knows why we have reached this point of depravation and humiliation.  It may be the energy resources in the Greek Seas, or perhaps its close proximity to the Balkans and Turkey.  It may just be that we are, as everyone says, a nation of lazy couch potatoes.  Maybe some of you have the answers, but somewhere deep inside I have that gut feeling that something else is going on.