Opinion | The Decline of Greece and Beyond

Opinion | The Decline of Greece and BeyondOpinion – The Decline of Greece and Beyond

This is a personal assessment of developer failures in south Cyprus resulting in demands for house purchasers to pay the developers’ debts.

Clearly, the ethics of business and government in Cyprus whether has a great deal to call into question. I’m guessing that government ministers and some senior civil servants sit on the bank boards, or vice-versa – because this kind of fraudulent behaviour can’t usually be perpetrated without some form of official collusion.

BUT, a big ‘but’, I witnessed an attitude in mainline Greece that amounted to “poor hard done by Greeks are being screwed by you rich Brits and the rest of the EU”, long before even the Euro existed. “We work incredibly hard, and we’re only paid less than half of what you get.” So it would be not unreasonable to assume that government, banks, lawyers and developers are tarred with the same brush; if they have a problem, however much it’s of their making, the “rich foreigners” and the EU should pay.

When I first encountered the EC in relation to the research project that I managed in 1996 or 7, the Italian project officer from the EC was REALLY hard on the mainland Greeks concerned. He ejected the mainland Greek bank from the project – he reckoned they were there for two reasons: just for the ride, and the money, and wouldn’t actually contribute anything. Then he insisted that the budget that the main Greek technology partner wanted was cut by 1/3rd. He both hated and despised the Greeks – and also southern Italians, whom he said had just the same lack of moral compass in business matters as the Greeks.

During my management of the project, several times, it became clear that the Greek company concerned was claiming for work in a way that made me very suspicious. However, if I had raised the matter with the EC project officer, the project would have been “red flagged” and closed down, which would have meant the loss, to my employers and other partners, of an important piece of research. And that is how the Greek partner ‘got away with it’.

The same principle was evident in the attitude of the Greek government and business community to the Euro, and their joining it: they thought they could make easy money from joining it. How Greece passed the tests to join the Euro one can only speculate. But the drachma was vastly overvalued – and that is partly what scuppered their economy. There were large US firms based in Athens when Greek software writers were cheaper than US ones; after Greece joined the Euro, I am told, many of those firms upped sticks and went to India. The once cheap holidays in Greece became expensive. So tourist numbers declined rapidly. It was easy to forecast the consequence, and of course it has come to pass.

So far as the Cypriot banks demanding that expats who have bought houses there pay for developers’ debts or lose their houses, I think it needs all the expats in Greek Cyprus – and I mean ALL – to petition both the EU Parliament and the UK government to demand action by both. And start suing individuals in the Cyprus government who are responsible for overseeing banks and building. It’ll take something like this to force their hand.

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