Greek Cowboys and the IMF – who is scared of real tax reform?

Lagarde 2

The head of the IMF (Christine Lagarde) revealed a picture of the cowboy capitalism that dominates Greece when she referred to the death threats made against her after speaking out on the rich and powerful avoiding taxes.

Speaking of the failure of some rich Greeks to pay their dues, Lagarde told the Financial Times last week that it was a topic best left alone because it had got her into trouble. “I better not say too much because, you know, when I have talked about Greece and its taxes before, I got death threats and we had to increase security,” she was quoted as saying.

The former French finance minister, who was put under formal investigation for potential criminal negligence by a court in Paris last month, then asked: “But is the shipping industry really paying its taxes? Are others? I don’t think so.”

Greek authorities launched the inquiry on Wednesday after Athens’ justice minister, Haralambos Athanasiou, announced that he had written to Lagarde asking that she provide further details about the alleged threats.

Athanasiou took the step after the IMF chief sparked widespread embarrassment with the claim. Fears abound that Lagarde’s seemingly off-the-cuff remarks could impact negatively on a country that has been kept afloat with emergency bailout funds from the EU and IMF for the past four years.

“How are we going to attract badly needed foreign investment when Greece is perceived not as a nation in which the rule of law prevails but as one as in which cartels and the mafia have the upper hand?” asked Dimitris Tsiodras, a leading commentator. “Lagarde is not alone. Others have received threats too,” he told the Guardian.

see full story in the The Guardian here

Tsipras speech on the SYRIZA priorities for government – ideology and policy

Synedrio - Tsipras 2

Alexis Tsipras began by clarifying that his speech did not necessarily contain what SYRIZA would like for the future of Greece, but an approach which it can reasonably guarantee will work, under the circumstances which have been imposed on Greece.

Tsipras’ speech and its proposals by SYRIZA at the Thessaloniki International Fair can be analysed in detail. The figures can be cross-checked to the nth degree, one can look at the basis of the numbers, the emphasis on particular approaches, the winners and losers;  it could, in short, be interpreted as the detailed economic programme of a newly elected government, or as a budget handed down by an elected government.

However, if one weighs the political and ideological positioning of the president of SYRIZA, one would find two key principles lie behind the SYRIZA “Budget” as put forth by Tsipras.

Tsipras states that the current government can be considered the political representative of the most serious (and large) tax evaders and therefore not only is it not particularly interested in the crackdown on tax evasion, but can be considered to be on a mission to actually protect it.

This article was writtten by Giorgos Kiritsis and published in Avgi newspaper on 16.9.14 It has been translated from Greek by the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign. The original article can be found here

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National Recovery Plan – SYRIZA Leader announces a new deal for Greece

Tsipras thessaloniki Sept 2014

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras outlined on Saturday the National Recovery Plan that his party would pursue if it is elected. Key elements of the plan include a major public debt writeoff, abolish the single property tax (ENFIA) and raise the tax-free threshold as well as the minimum wage if it comes to power.

Speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Tsipras said that Greece needs to hold national elections as soon as possible and gave an outline of what economic policies his party would adopt in government.

“We are not asking for elections because we are in a hurry to govern,” said Tsipras. “We are asking for a strong mandate to form a government and even stronger mandate from society to challenge for the best possible outcoems for our people in Europe.”

Tsipras said SYRIZA would demand that a haircut for the majority of Greek debt so that it is rendered sustainable and that the payment of the remainder be indexed to the country’s growth rates. He called for an international debt conference like the one held in 1953 to deal with Germany’s debt.

As for the economy, Tsipras said SYRIZA’s plan for overcoming the long Greek recession would focus on four “pillars”: the humanitarian crisis, restarting the economy, reviving the labor market and political reform.

Tsipras said SYRIZA’s plans were “simple, specific and realistic.”

The leftists would launch a 2-billion-euro program to tackle social problems, scrap the ENFIA tax, raise the tax-free threshold to 12,000 euros and increase the minimum wage to 751 euros.

Tsipras also pledged the formation of a two-year 5-billion-euro package to boost job creation that would be financed by European Union funds. He also said SYRIZA would seek to put 20 billion euros of 68 billion in tax arrears in a seven-year payment plan. This would bring 3 billion euros into public coffers in the first year, the opposition leader claimed.

He also promised that a SYRIZA government would gradually restore pensions and public sector salaries.

see full article in Kathimerini here

France and Friends: Merkel Increasingly Isolated on Austerity

from Spiegel online

from Spiegel online

In France, among the ruling Socialists, many believe the blame for France’s current troubles doesn’t lie mainly with themselves and their unwillingness to push through structural reforms. Rather, they blame Germany’s austerity policies in Europe. Indeed, the only disagreement among the French left is the question as to how loudly they should voice their displeasure. In a sense, it is that question which resulted in last week’s fall of the French government. It tripped over Merkel.

French President François Hollande released his cabinet last Monday largely because Prime Minister Manuel Valls wanted to finally rid himself of his left-wing critics, Economics Minister Arnaud Montebourg first among them. Montebourg had loudly complained of European austerity and demanded that the French government cease taking heed of the “obsessions of the German right.”

See full story in Spiegel  here

Post-Punk Lute

A Melbourne duo making waves in the New York music scene. Esoteric punk drummer Jim White from the punk band Dirty Three combines with Melbourne’s Cretan maesto George Xylouris. Their debut album Goats  is due out in October. Who said multiculturalism doesnt work?

This short film, a première, by the director Jem Cohen (“Museum Hours”), shows a live performance of the song “Psarandonis Syrto,” by the band Xylouris White. The duo is a collaboration between the Cretan lutenist George Xylouris and the post-punk Australian drummer Jim White, of Dirty Three. Their début album, “Goats,” produced by Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, comes out in October, on the Other Music label. Cohen, White, and Picciotto, longtime friends andcollaborators, live in Brooklyn, and on Tuesday evening we met there, in the back garden of a restaurant in Prospect Heights, to talk about the project.

See full review from the New Yorker  here



Greek community leaders from Sydney, Melbourne and the Australian Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Council were joined by other community leaders and trade unionists in denouncing the far right Golden Dawn party of Greece. A joint statement was released on September 2 20104 and is presented in full below:


The planned visit to Australia in October by two members of the extremist Greek political party, Golden Dawn, is a matter that should concern all Australians. Golden Dawn is committed to promoting division between ethnic and religious communities. It also promotes hateful attitudes towards women and espouses the marginalization and suppression of people who it deems to have an ‘unnatural’ sexuality. These prejudices are entirely incompatible with the vision of a peaceful, tolerant, multicultural Australia that promotes harmony and cooperation across all parts of society.

 Beyond its racist, bigoted ideology, Golden Dawn draws inspiration from the violent methods of the Nazi German regime of the last century.  Its members and supporters routinely whip themselves into a frenzy of hate with torchlight rallies, demagogic rhetoric and stiff arm salutes. Some members (including senior leaders) have been charged by police with bashing defenceless individuals who they deem to be enemies.

 During 2013, the leader of Golden Dawn and dozens of its followers were arrested in Greece and charged with offences ranging from murder and causing explosions, to blackmail.

 Australians have a proud record of bravery and sacrifice in fighting and defeating fascism in the twentieth century. We call on all Australians to unite once more to demonstrate their detestation of the message of hatred and the violent politics being propagated by groups like Golden Dawn.


George Vellis Coordinator,

Australian Hellenic Council

Joe Caputo Chairperson,

Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia

Nicholas Pappas AM Hon Secretary,

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council

Randa Kattan

Chief Executive Officer, Arab Council Australia

Bill Papastergiadis President,

Greek Orthodox Community Melbourne and Victoria

Maha Abdo OAM Executive Officer,

United Muslim Women Association Inc

Michael Tsilimos General Secretary,

Greek Orthodox Community of NSW

Mr Hafez Kassem, President,

Muslims Australia (AFIC)

Angelo Gavrielatos Federal President,

Australian Education Union

Ged Kearney President,

Australian Council of Trade Unions