Road to ruin no joke

Here is a joke about the Greek economy:

Q. Why did Greece fail to get the latest instalment of European Union aid?

A. Because no-one in Greece works long enough to complete the application form.

The joke refers to one of the peculiarities of the Greek economic system, and the apparently lavish benefits it provided its citizens before it crashed.

Go Greek for a Week is on the Living Channel tonight at 9.30pm, and it has a reasonably entertaining attempt at explaining the issue.

The Greek economy is a matter one sees in snippets on the news, through scenes of riots as Greeks react to austerity measures.

Either that, or through the deeply esoteric ramblings of economists, which bring new meaning to the phrase "It's all Greek to me".

Greece is regularly used as one of the reasons the world's economy is going to hell in a handbasket.

But why did everything go so very badly wrong in that small country alarmingly close to Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria?

Pretend accountant Mr Kostas uses three British families' situations, and uncovers just what sort of benefits they would have been entitled to in Greece.

Jane, for instance, is a 54-year-old part-time hairdresser who earns about $NZ25,000.

Mr Kostas explains in Greece her job was one of 580 occupations that were designated arduous or unhealthy - in this case because of the chemicals involved - and she would have been entitled to retirement.


Not only that, but she would be entitled to 90% of her state pension, which would come to the same amount as what she earns.

Other occupations designated arduous or unhealthy were radio broadcasters, because of the risk of microphone germs, and wind instrumentalists, who are apparently subject to gastric ailments.

John Morgan works 46 hours a week driving buses in Luton.

Before the debt crisis, as a Greek bus driver, John would have received a bonus for checking tickets, $NZ150 a year for buying milk and, as a married man, he would have been about $NZ900 a week better off than he is.

It sounds a little like things should be.

And it must have been great before everything went pear-shaped.

But as University of Piraeus economist Platon Tinios says, all those benefits were brought in to buy political favour, and the country ended up in billions upon billions of dollars of debt.

And it just goes to show - while tax evasion, corruption and mismanagement are fun hobbies, they do not a sustainable country make.

Here is another joke:

Q. What is the capital of Greece?

A. $3.50.


-Charles Loughrey

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