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Daily Photo: Limassol Port


Greece Absurd Bonuses

>> October 16, 2011 – 


Civil servants of bankrupt Greece enjoy the most curious bonuses. Train engineers of the state-owned railroads, who make up to €7,000 a month, get an additional bonus for every driven kilometer. Their days off don’t have 24 hours but 28 hours. Plus they receive €420 a month for hand hygiene, a bonus that other railroad workers also get. Bus drivers of the state-owned transportation firms in Athens are paid for the time they spend commuting, and if they show up on time, they’re paid an extra €310 a month. Messengers for ministries get an extra €290 a month if they carry documents. Other ministerial workers get bonuses if they know how to use a PC. At the culture ministry, they get a clothing allowance. Workers at the partially privatized telecom OTE receive €25 a month for warming up company vehicles (investigation by Handelsblatt, article in German).

These bonuses should now be on the chopping block, even if Greece has been together with Italy the most creative country to avoid cutting senseless privileges. After having reviewed Greece’s finances for the fifth time, the Troika inspectors were satisfied—unlike the prior times when they left angry—and recommended that the next bailout installment of €8 billion ($11 billion) be released. In return, Greece must chop off ever bigger parts of its budget as it is now clear that privatizations won’t produce the initially expected revenues. Still, the fiscal targets for 2011 won’t be achievable. Greece’s national debt of €350 billion will continue to balloon and will reach 166% of GDP by 2012.

The Troika inspectors will submit their official report at the G-20 meeting in Cannes on October 23. And the transfer will likely happen in early November. If not, Greece will go bankrupt by the end of November. However, Greek dates are in flux, like its finances. The original bankruptcy-date the Greek government brandished to extort more money was mid October. But when that didn’t result in more money, Greece suddenly “found” €1.5 billion.

But on the street, resistance is growing. In Athens, transportation workers, who make up part of Greece’s 1.3 million civil servants, have shut down the public transportation system Thursday and Friday. Even taxis are on strike. Lawyers are on strike till October 19. Thursday, civil servants at the state-owned power company occupied its billing offices to prevent it from sending out the new electricity bills that now include a property tax—and a latent threat that if you don’t pay your property tax, we’ll cut off the juice. Seamen, hospital workers, and others will go on strike next week.

It’s not just bonuses that are on the chopping block. Salaries of civil servants are too. And now the minimum wage caught the Troika inspectors’ eyes—at €750 ($1,050) a month, it’s higher than that of Spain, Portugal, and Poland, countries with a similar standard of living. To make Greece competitive, the inspectors will include a demand in their final report that the minimum wage be reduced, on the theory that it would create jobs (L’Expansion, article in French). The reaction on the street will be interesting. But the worst part when it comes to Greek and Italians is the imposition of taxes.

“Tax fraud is a national crime, a national plague,” announced finance minister Evangelos Venizelos in a speech to parliament on Friday (Zeit, article in German). And apparently, he is trying to do something about it, maybe. An investigation by his ministry revealed that Greeks owe €37 billion ($50 billion) in back taxes. The majority, €32 billion, is owed by companies. To remedy the situation, the finance ministry will publish a list of 15,000 people who haven’t paid their taxes. It identified fraudsters who owed more than €1 million. It further determined that 3,718 Greeks moved €5.5 billion out of the country during 2009 alone. Of them, 542 declared income of less than €1,000. That’s just for the tax year 2009. The investigations of tax years 2010 and 2011 are ongoing. And for what it’s worth, he announced that private companies would be recruited to help in the collection efforts.

Read more at www.thepeakeffect.com


Hellhole cities on the rise in America

The tax base in
many areas of United States has been absolutely devastated as millions of
jobs have left the country.  Hundreds of cities are drowning in debt
and are desperately trying to survive. 

Last year, city government revenues in the United States fell by another 2.3 percent. 
That was the fifth year in a row with a decline. 
So what are cities doing to make
ends meet?  Well, one big trend is that many
U.S. cities have been getting rid of huge numbers of employees. 72 percent of
all U.S. cities are laying workers off this year.  Social services and
essential infrastructure programs are also being savagely cut back in
many areas of the country.

Below an incredible collection of stories from the hellholes:

Street lights get repossessed because of unpaid electric bills
Police does no longer prosecute domestic violence cases in order to save money.
Municipality stops sending out pension checks to retired workers.
City rips up asphalt roads and replaces them with gravel because gravel is cheaper to maintain.
City eliminates the entire public bus system.
Nearly half of all the people in Detroit can’t read.
One out of every ten homes sells for under $10,000.
You can literally buy a house for one dollar.
Hundreds of people living in the tunnels underneath the streets.

Nearly half of the public schools in the city shut down because of a lack of money.

10 most dangerous cities in the world.
Prostitution and drug dealing are two of the only viable businesses that remain.
Police chief announces that the police department will no longer respond to calls about burglary and identity theft due to very deep budget cuts.

Read more at www.thepeakeffect.com


After the fall

>> October 15, 2011 – 

Al Jazeera,

In the final episode of Meltdown, we hear about the sheikh
who says the crash never happened; a Wall Street king charged with
fraud; a congresswoman who wants to jail the bankers; and the world
leaders who want a re-think of capitalism.

The financial crash of
September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history,
pushing over 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many
countries to the brink of insolvency.

Read more at www.thepeakeffect.com


Nobel Prize Infograph

Daily Photo: Golden Beach

Daily Photo: Salamis

Daily Photo:The Shrine

Daily Photo: Petra Temple

Daily Photo: Kerak