10 Reasons Why One in Every Three Greeks Lives in Poverty

If Eurostat data is to be believed, then one out of every three Greeks you met in 2015 was at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Hence, you would probably find more poverty-stricken Greeks than you would Romanians (37.4 percent) or Bulgarians (41.3 percent). A strange fact indeed, bearing in mind that wages are generally higher in Greece than in some countries with less poverty (for the 75 percent of adults and 50 percent of youth that are lucky enough to have a job, that is).

Poverty seems to be the new normalcy and the “lucky” ones are the brightest young minds who go abroad for a real job and a better future. Those who stay behind are left holding – nothing… and everything! After all, there’s a depraved defiance in being the EU member whose leader shows up at the White House without a tie. A sense of shame and pride all rolled into one.

So, why are the Greeks poor though they’ve built palaces in their minds?

1. Greeks are natural philosophers rather than economists, so they prefer to use their poverty as a tool when grappling with age-old questions that have to do with stoicism and epicureanism rather than look at what is best for the economy. Even former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, mastermind of creative vagueness, would look at the dismal figures through the prism of philosophy – and suddenly they didn’t look so bad. German philosopher Immanuel Kant had said what almost every Greek – wealthy or poor – knows deep down: “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” But, the inclination to philosophise is not the only thing keeping Greeks poor. After all, as Aristotle said, poverty is just the parent of revolution and crime.

2. Corruption in Greece is sky high and blatantly flouted. Crooked politicians caught red-handed emptying state coffers don’t resign or even hang their heads in shame. Voters have short memories or are also dependent on the system, feeding it so that corruption continues unhindered. Everybody is part of the problem and even the most “innocent” are guilty of turning a blind eye.

3. Greeks are poor because of their low tax morals and black market economy. To play devil’s advocate, this is quite understandable in a country where tax laws change regularly and are often unfairly based. There are people who pay taxes on values they don’t even own and others who don’t pay taxes on values they do.

4. Greece’s history hasn’t allowed it to prosper. No sooner did it tear itself from the Ottoman Empire that it entered wars, including a bad run in WW2 where the Nazi Germans seized all its assets and gold from the Greek treasury when they occupied the country. Debts owed by Germany were forgotten over time even though these, in today’s currency, would be more than Greece owes. But rather than focus on its interests, all that was taken from Greece was lost between the pages of civil war followed by a military dictatorship as locals were too busy arguing between themselves to stand up to their real enemies.

5. Export/import imbalances are huge despite the fact that Greece has so much to offer in terms of local produce eg. superb wines, olive oil, etc.

6. Public spending exceeds revenues structurally, or to put it bluntly Greece cannot sustain its current wealth. In fact, its production model went bankrupt well before state coffers were emptied.

7. The private sector has low to no economic growth. Bankruptcies are plentiful and the huge bureaucracy makes it hard for businesses to survive or be competitive on a global scale.

8. There are high interest burdens on foreign loans to the central bank and government. As for the European Central Bank, it has dealt a huge blow to Greece’s attempts to rehabilitate its ailing financial system by not allowing Greek banks access to ultra-cheap loans that other EU countries are privy to.

9. Nobody gives a damn about Greece, including its crooked politicians who are also involved in the country’s sell off. Anything that is profitable is being dismantled to pay back its debt, depriving future generations of a stake in the country’s assets. The truth is that Europe has its own problems with German elections coming up, the UK referendum that led to a Brexit and other worries, so as long as Greece doesn’t disturb the balance, it can be left to starve.

10. Happy hour is over. There’s a well-known joke that applies to Greece: “The Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and Irish walk into a bar, where buxom German barmaids and Dutch bartenders are serving half-price drinks. Although everyone quickly downs the booze, the bartenders keep on serving. Inebriated customers head home with all sorts of trouble… Who’s to blame? Clearly, the Greeks should have shown restraint… however the Germans shouldn’t have served Greeks who were clearly drunk. They should have had the foresight to predict that fights, broken windows and GRaccidents would have followed. Now Happy Hour is over and someone has to pay for the damage.”

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