All this debate and talk about Greece and the EU has finally got me so upset that I felt compelled to write my thoughts about the situation. I apologize in advance to my readers if this sounds like a tirade, but I think most of the debate is totally missing the point.
When you observe organizations and people long enough you realize that establishing new policies and procedures alone are not effective at bringing about real change inside a company. And we see that happening in Greece, the lightening rod for all that is rotten in the EU.
Greece is in finanical meltdown not because of the financial policies of the EU but because of its own culture. A culture of entitlement, greed, graft, and corruption at all levels. While the government is definitely corrupt and fiscally irresponsible, it doesn’t stop there. The culture of Greece is corrupt down to and including the worker level. Greece is not only financially bankrupt, it is morally bankrupt, and it’s a reflection of the culture. You can blame government policies of buying votes with jobs and other corrupt and irresponsible practices that have created a “lazy, entitlement” culture in Greece, and that may be the cause, but new policies are not the solution. It’s now a culture problem.
Here are some of the elements of the Greek culture that the citizens believe are their “rights”! This is their culture:
- Children inherit the pensions of their parents,
- Greek MPs are paid 16 monthly salaries a year,
- Bonuses are paid to civil servants for washing their hands,
- University professors use EU research funds to buy cars and houses,
- Greek ministries where only half the staff turn up for work, yet still get paid,
- Luxury holidays for state employees,
- 800 former politicians received €80M in grants to “transition” back into the private sector
- Immunity from the law for members of Parlialment
The argument that a failure in Greece would risk a failure of the entire EU is akin to the argument that banks are too big to fail, and we’ve seen how that one has played out. Loans to small businesses dry up while bankers continue to get big bonuses from trading commisions (not real value creation). So the EU pours more taxpayer money into the Greek “slush fund” they call their economy in order to avoid the real issue. Oh, I almost forgot, they agree to pass tougher laws and policies in exchange for the money. Fat chance that even if passed they will stick to the laws and policies.
To me the real issue is whether the EU is a common economy with a common set of rules or just a collection of nation states where a few countries play by the rules and the rest milk the system? Currently the EU looks a lot like an unsustainable and unholy union. And its leaders are totally ineffective at making positive change happen. Sort of like the Board of Directors deciding on a new strategy and the rest of the company going about business as usual. Lots of powerpoint slides and conferences but nothing changes.
The EU cannot regulate behavior any more than new company policies can change the way people behave inside a company. Culture is stronger than policies.
Culture change takes courageous leadership plus accountability on the part of citizens.
When the Greek people decide to become accountable and give up tax avoidance scams (like getting their Filipino servants to pose as tourists and “hire” their master’s yachts in order to avoid 23% VAT taxes by claiming the yachts are rented), and cheating the government at every turn, like not paying electricity or water bills for years, then change can begin. And when real leaders with business acumen and moral compasses decide to run for public office only then will Greece be able to become a sustainable member in standing of the EU. Until then the Greek culture is dragging everyone in the EU down with them.
My vote is to cut them off, oust them from the union for failing to comply with the rules. That way they will “have to change” because it is the only alternative available. It may not be comparing like for like but I do remember when Brazil defaulted. And now look at the zeal and entrepreneurial spirit of the Brazilian people, not to mention it’s roaring economy. It’s not the end of the world to face the real music, but it can be the end of the old world of an unaccountable culture.
My father used to have a saying, “why buy a cow when the milk is free?”
Tight Lines . . .
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