I came to Greece and clear my head, decide what was next and to write a book. I think I have decided and the book should be largely there by this time next week. And so it is time to start making my way back to the British Isles. Now that the Olympics is almost over, it seems a safe enough exercise to undertake. I shall miss Greece and Albania but will be back and will stay very much in touch with what is happening here. In the sort of voyeuristic way that cars slow down to snap photos of crashes on the Motorway, you can easily bet absorbed by the sheer horror of what is going on and how it is just crushing the spirit of ordinary folks.
One reaction to the crisis in Greece has been an upsurge in support for Golden Dawn, a political party which is openly racist and fascist in intent. You may remember the triple jumper Vroula who was booted out of the Olympics for a) saying some unwise words about Africans on twitter and b) because she openly supported Golden Dawn. My article defending her right to say what she did but disagreeing with every word of it can be found here.
One interesting development of the past few weeks is that the Government (which does not include Golden Dawn) has been rounding up illegal immigrants here in Athens, sticking them on buses and, with no messing about appeals to the European Court, etc, just deporting them. These immigrants are in some cases Africans. But on my travels on Greece’s buses I have encountered, several times, groups of young men from Pakistan and Bangladesh who speak not a word of Greek and just a spattering of English. I am aware that there are also a stack of flights heading back to the Indian sub-continent packed with deported illegals.
No doubt this will all play well with Greek triple jumpers. But will it assist Greece one iota? The answer is no. The score for the illegals is that they come here and work in the cash economy doing jobs Greeks just think are beneath them. There were estimated to be 3,000 folk moving around Athens collecting cans for recycling. These were not Greeks but illegals. Now the cans will just lie in the Street as garbage. It is often illegals who worked on the small farms in the villages. The Greeks just collected EU subsidies (often on utterly bogus applications) and outsourced the actual process of milking goats or picking olives to cheap illegal labour paid cash in hand.
Illegal workers in Greece might earn 15-20 Euro a day, cash in hand. Cram 11 into a cheap apartment, share food costs and they are making enough to save some to send cash back home. The Greek welfare system means that even with unemployment at 23-29% (official figures – real figures) and even with youth unemployment at 54-60% on the same basis, no Greek will take on these jobs.
So Golden Dawn is cracking open the sparkling red wine from Zitsa and celebrating. The pie-eaters of Pasok and New Democracy may even win back some voters from Golden Dawn. But what is the economic impact on Greece?
Costs of this exercise:
1. Cost of arranging deportation (okay not a vast amount)
Extra Greek Jobs created so folks taken off welfare
1. Nil. Greeks just simply refuse to do these jobs.
Increase/Decrease in tax receipts
1. Increase – nil.
2. Decrease – marginal. The illegals spent some money in Greece on taxable items (bread, cigarettes, etc)
Effect on Real Economy
1. Negative. The farms will be less productive as Greek farmers decline to maximise yields from farming as opposed to harvesting subsidies, the tin can recycling industry will shrink etc. The apartments once crammed with 11 Pakistanis will lie empty. The bakeries will sell a bit less bread. It will all add up and for an economy in crisis this is the last thing it needs.
So the net effect of this exercise is increased Government spending, lower tax receipts and shrinkage in GDP. Great. Vroula and her pals in Golden Dawn will say that the illegals were all criminals. Some were. You could always deport them. But the scale of their crimes is nothing when compared to the subsidy abuse endemic in Greece and the wholesale corruption of the Greek political class. The vast majority of the young men being deported are not criminals. They were human beings prepared to work hard, for very little in order to make a better life for themselves. Greece needs more folks like that, not less since there are very few like that of the home grown variety.
While we are on this topic, a secondary question for Vroula and her pals is about demographics. Indigenous Europeans are not breeding fast enough. And so our societies are getting older. That means more folks to be supported by fewer people of a productive age. It might even in due course mean that there are not enough folks around to care for we grey hairs in the old folk’s home. What is Golden Dawn’s solution to this? Euthanasia for those over 70? Forced breeding programmes of good white people? The only solution has to be to accept more, not less immigration (by those who want to work). Over to you Vroula: what is your solution?
As the European crisis deepens there will be more episodes like the one currently underway in Greece. It may well play well with certain punters. But it will only harm the European economy, not benefit it one iota.
There will be no Tomograph next week or for the two weeks after that as I am travelling back to the British Isles. But normal service on TomWinnifrith.com will be maintained. Alerts on all the articles I produce – and my next piece is for the Christian Science Monitor – will be sent via twitter so make sure you are following me on @tomwinnifrith.