What happens if you live in a barrel
12-05-2011, 01:10 PM
What happens if you live in a barrel
Even on a stiflingly hot summer's day, the Athens underground is a pleasure. It is air-conditioned, with plasma screens to entertain passengers relaxing in cool, cavernous departure halls - and the trains even run on time.
There is another bonus for users of this state-of-the-art rapid transport system: it is, in effect, free for the five million people of the Greek capital.
With no barriers to prevent free entry or exit to this impressive tube network, the good citizens of Athens are instead asked to 'validate' their tickets at honesty machines before boarding. Few bother.
This is not surprising: fiddling on a Herculean scale from the owner of the smallest shop to the most powerful figures in business and politics has become as much a part of Greek life as ouzo and olives.
Indeed, as well as not paying for their metro tickets, the people of Greece barely paid a penny of the undergrounds £1.5 billion cost a ˜sweetener from Brussels (and, therefore, the UK taxpayer) to help the country put on an impressive 2004 Olympics free of the citys notorious traffic jams.
The transport perks are not confined to the customers. Incredibly, the average salary on Greeces railways is £60,000, which includes cleaners and track workers - treble the earnings of the average private sector employee here.
The overground rail network is as big a racket as the EU-funded underground. While its annual income is only £80million from ticket sales, the wage bill is more than £500m a year prompting one Greek politician to famously remark that it would be cheaper to put all the commuters into private taxis.
We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension, says Stefans Manos, a former Greek finance minister. And yet, there isnt a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.
Significantly, since entering Europe as part of an ill-fated dream by politicians of creating a European super-state, the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled in a decade. At the same time, perks and fiddles reminiscent of Britain in the union-controlled 1970s have flourished.
Ridiculously, Greek pastry chefs, radio announcers, hairdressers and masseurs in steam baths are among more than 600 professions allowed to retire at 50 (with a state pension of 95 per cent of their last working years earnings) on account of the arduous and perilous nature of their work.
This week, it was reported that every family in Britain could face a £14,000 bill to pay for Greece s self-inflicted financial crisis. Such fears were denied yesterday after Brussels voted a massive new £100bn rescue package which, it insisted, would not need a contribution from Britain .
Even if this is true and many British MPs have their doubts we will still have to stump up £1billion to the bailout through the International Monetary Fund.
In return for this loan, European leaders want the Greeks free-spending ways to end immediately if the country is to be prevented from ˜infecting the worlds financial system. Naturally, the Greek people are not happy about this.
In Constitution Square this week, opposite the parliament, I witnessed thousands gathering to campaign against government cuts designed to save the country from bankruptcy.
After running battles with riot police, who used tear gas to disperse protesters, thousands are still camped out in the square ahead of a vote by Greek politicians next week on whether to accept Europe-imposed austerity measures.
Yet these protesters should direct their anger closer to home to those Greeks who have for many years done their damndest to deny their country the dues they owe it.
Take a short trip on the metro to the citys cooler northern suburbs, and you will find an enclave of staggering opulence.
Here, in the suburb of Kifissia, amid clean, tree-lined streets full of designer boutiques and car showrooms selling luxury marques such as Porsche and Ferrari, live some of the richest men and women in the world.
With its streets paved with marble, and dotted with charming parks and cafes, this suburb is home to shipping tycoons such as Spiros Latsis, a billionaire and friend of Prince Charles, as well as countless other wealthy industrialists and politicians.
One of the reasons they are so rich is that rather than paying millions in tax to the Greek state, as they rightfully should, many of these residents are living entirely tax-free.
Along street after street of opulent mansions and villas, surrounded by high walls and with their own pools, most of the millionaires living here are, officially, virtually paupers.
How so? Simple: they are allowed to state their own earnings for tax purposes, figures which are rarely challenged. And rich Greeks take full advantage.
Astonishingly, only 5,000 people in a country of 12 million admit to earning more than £90,000 a year a salary that would not be enough to buy a garden shed in Kifissia.
Yet studies have shown that more than 60,000 Greek homes each have investments worth more than £1m, let alone unknown quantities in overseas banks, prompting one economist to describe Greece as a poor country full of rich people.
Manipulating a corrupt tax system, many of the residents simply say that they earn below the basic tax threshold of around £10,000 a year, even though they own boats, second homes on Greek islands and properties overseas.
And, should the taxman rumble this common ruse, it can be dealt with using a fakelaki an envelope stuffed with cash.. There is even a semi-official rate for bribes: passing a false tax return requires a payment of up to 10,000 euros (the average Greek family is reckoned to pay out £2,000 a year in fakelaki.)
Even more incredibly, Greek shipping magnates the king of kings among the wealthy of Kifissia are automatically exempt from tax, supposedly on account of the great benefits they bring the country.
Yet the shipyards are empty; once employing 15,000, they now have less than 500 to service the once-mighty Greek shipping lines which, like the rest of the country, are in terminal decline.
With Greek President George Papandreou calling for a crackdown on these tax dodgers who are believed to cost the economy as much as £40bn a year he is now resorting to bizarre means to identify the cheats. After issuing warnings last year, government officials say he is set to deploy helicopter snoopers, along with scrutiny of Google Earth satellite pictures, to show who has a swimming pool in the northern suburbs an indicator, officials say, of the owners wealth.
Officially, just over 300 Kifissia residents admitted to having a pool. The true figure is believed to be 20,000. There is even a boom in sales of tarpaulins to cover pools and make them invisible to the aerial tax inspectors.
The most popular and effective measure used by owners is to camouflage their pool with a khaki military mesh to make it look like natural undergrowth, says Vasilis Logothetis, director of a major swimming pool construction company. That way, neither helicopters nor Google Earth can spot them.
But faced with the threat of a crackdown, money is now pouring out of the country into overseas tax havens such as Liechtenstein , the Bahamas and Cyprus .
Other popular alternatives include setting up offshore companies in Cyprus or the British Virgin Islands , or the purchase of real estate abroad, says one doctor, who declares an income of less than £90,000 yet earns five times that amount.
There has also been a boom in London property purchases by Athens-based Greeks in an attempt to hide their true worth from their domestic tax authorities.
These anti-tax evasion measures by the government force us to resort to even more detailed tax evasion ploys, admits Petros Iliopoulos, a civil engineer.
Hotlines have been set up offering rewards for people who inform on tax dodgers. Last month, to show the government is serious, it named and shamed 68 high-earning doctors found guilty of tax evasion.
We will spare no effort to collect what is due to the state, said Evangelos Venizelos, the new Greek finance minister of the socialist ruling part˜We promise to draft and apply a new and honest tax system, one that has been needed for decades, so that taxes are duly paid by those who should pay.
Yet, already, it is too late. Greece is effectively bust relying on EU cash from richer northern European countries, but this has been the case ever since the country finally joined the euro in 2001.
Two years earlier, the country was barred from entering because it did not meet the financial criteria.
No matter: the Greeks simply cooked the books. Two years later, having falsely claimed to have met standards relating to manufacturing and industrial production and low inflation, the Greeks were allowed in.
Funds poured into the country from across Europe and the Greeks started spending like there was no tomorrow.
Money flowed into all areas of public life. As a result, for example, the Greek school system is now an over-staffed shambles, employing four times more teachers per pupil than Finland , the country with the highest-rated education system in Europe . But we still have to pay for tutors for our two children, says Helena, an Athens mother. The teachers are hopeless they seem to spend their time off sick.
Although Brussels has now agreed to provide the next stage of its debt payment programme to safeguard the countrys immediate economic future, the Greek media still carries ominous warnings that the military may be forced to step in should the countrys foray into Europe end in ignominy, bankruptcy and rising violence.
12-06-2011, 10:55 PM
RE: What happens if you live in a barrel
One thing about blokes from Scotland is that their hearts and humour are always in the right place!
Jimmy MacDonald, a City Councillor from Glasgow , was asked on a local live radio talk show, just what he thought about the allegations of torture of suspected terrorists.
His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but to thunderous applause from the audience.
'If hooking up one rag head terrorist's testicles to a car battery gets the truth out of the lying little camel shagger to save just one Scottish soldiers life, then I have only three things to say, Red is positive, Black is negative, and make sure his nuts are wet.'
12-09-2011, 12:03 AM
RE: What happens if you live in a barrel
At 85 years of age, Roger married Jenny, a lovely 25 year old.
Since her new husband is so old, Jenny decides that after their wedding she and Roger should have separate bedrooms, because she is concerned that her new but aged husband may over-exert himself if they spend the entire night together.
After the wedding festivities Jenny prepares herself for bed and the expected 'knock' on the door. Sure enough the knock comes, the door opens and there is Roger, her 85 year old groom, ready for action. They unite as one. All goes well, Roger takes leave of his bride, and she prepares to go to sleep.
After a few minutes, Jenny hears another knock on her bedroom door, and it's Roger. Again he is ready for more 'action'. Somewhat surprised, Jenny consents for more coupling. When the newly weds are done, Roger kisses his bride, bids her a fond good night and leaves.
She is set to go to sleep again, but, aha you guessed it - Roger is back again, rapping on the door, and is as fresh as a 25-year-old, ready for more 'action'. And, once more they enjoy each other.
But as Roger gets set to leave again, his young bride says to him, 'I am thoroughly impressed that at your age you can perform so well and so often. I have been with guys less than a third of your age who were only good once. You are truly a great lover, Roger.'
Roger, somewhat embarrassed, turns to Jenny and says: 'You mean I've been in here already?'
The moral of the story:
Don't be afraid of getting old, Alzheimer's has its advantages.
12-16-2011, 06:40 PM
Happy Christmas to all our readers
A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary.
Every word out of the bird's' mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary.
Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.
Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard
for over a minute.
Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and
John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude.
As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird spoke-up, very softly, "May I ask what the turkey did?
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