Saturday, March 22, 2014

Greece updates March 22 , 2014 -- Postcards from Troikaville ! Greece’s coalition government at risk to drown in “fresh milk” ? Samaras urges greater unity as list of dissenting coalition MPs grows !

Greece items of note.....




“Fresh milk” debate causes further friction within coalition government

MPs Kassis, Moraitis and Vlachos are opposed to the government’s deal with the troika regarding milk

Friday, March 21, 2014
“Fresh milk” debate causes further friction within coalition government
After the Deputy Minister of Agricultural Growth Maximos Harakopoulos announced that he would resign from his post should the coalition government deregulate the sale of milk as it agreed to with the troika, further MPs from both PASOK and New Democracy have vowed to oppose the controversial reform.

New Democracy’s Giorgos Vlachos appeared on ANT1’s morning chat show on Friday and stressed that he would await official confirmation regarding the matter, before deciding to vote in favor or against the proposed regulation. He added that he has informed the Minister of Growth of his reservations and claimed that there was an alternative.

Meanwhile, PASOK MP Michalis Kassis appeared more determined to vote against the proposed changes to the sale of milk and was highly critical of party leader Evangelos Venizelos. At last Tuesday’s meeting of PASOK’s division managers it was unanimously decided to vote against the proposed changes.

When asked if Mr. Venizelos was aware of this decision he responded “if he doesn’t then he ought to find out” and when told that this could cause the government to collapse he commented “good riddance”, while adding that he did not want to be a “puppet MP”.

PASOK MP Thanos Moraitis was less forgiving in his estimation of the deal, arguing that the coalition government’s negations were “fictitious”, especially regarding milk, since a decision had already been taken. To that he pointed out that the relevant Minister of Agricultural Growth Tsaftaris was never called to any discussion, as he had expressed serious scientific concerns about the proposed changes.

Crucially, however, Mr. Moraitis claimed that the “government’s arguments were lies; there will be no reduction in prices. The example of long life milk (which is primarily imported) is indicative: it is not cheaper” and spoke of “deceiving and misleading consumers”, while arguing that the coalition government’s decision was tailored to serve certain interests.

Government reactions to "apostates"

According to PASOK’s parliamentary spokesman Paris Koukoulopoulos, the Minister of Finances Yannis Stournaras has arranged to meet with PASOK MP representatives to inform them of the details of the deal regarding milk. Mr. Koukoulopoulos however noted that “we will not do anything that would change the essence of the deal” while the Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis and the Deputy Minister of Growth Athanasios Skordasboth dubbed this discussion “a joke”.



Fresh Milk Fight Could Spoil Troika Deal

by  -  
- See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/03/22/fresh-milk-fight-could-spoil-troika-deal/#sthash.WiAAAhBc.dpuf




The Troika wants Greeks to buy expired milk
The Troika wants Greeks to buy expired milk
Greece’s deal with international lenders to unlock a nine billion euro installment was in peril after two more lawmakers from the coalition’s ruling parties said they would vote against it, objecting to a provision that would extend the shelf life of fresh milk in what was aimed at making the country more competitive.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner the PASOK Socialists have only a three-vote majority in the 300-member Parliament and three of its members earlier said they would reject the multi-bill that was put into one package for a straight up-or-down vote.
That strategy by the government to quell dissent appears to have backfired. The administration was confident the bill would pass because two other lawmakers in Parliament outside the coalition were backing it but now PASOK’s Thanos Moraitis and Nikos Sifounakis were added yesterday to what has reached four other MPs opposed to it. “Some people want to hand over the keys to the country to importers,” said Moraitis.
The rebellion prompted Samaras to say he was disappointed by the development which has put the government in a bind unless he and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos can twist arms and get the MPs to change their minds.
In the past the party leaders could eject members who disobey orders on how to vote as in the Greek system MPs are selected and told which way to vote on issues. Those who do otherwise or vote their conscience are booted from the party but with such a thin majority Samaras and Venizelos can’t afford to do that now.
Other mini-rebellions were quickly quashed by the party leaders as would-be dissenters were brought into line. Greece negotiated for seven months with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to reach an agreement on a series of unfinished reforms but most of the details have been kept secret from the public.
The demand to extend the shelf life of fresh milk past five days, essentially selling expired milk, is one of several liberalization measures and other reforms in the multi-bill that will go to Parliament on March 31. The draft law will have two or three articles.
This means that the provision on milk, along with other measures aimed at enhancing competition, will be included in an article with more of the reforms agreed with the Troika. If the government fails to gather the required votes, it would mean that the whole article would be rejected, undermining the deal with Greece’s lenders.
The coalition currently has 153 seats in the 300-seat Parliament but with six Golden Dawn lawmakers in pretrial custody that means that it would need a maximum of 148 votes to approve the multi-bill. By jailing the extremists on charges of running a criminal gang, the government has removed six votes in opposition.
Two independent MPs, Andreas Loverdos and Christos Aidonis, formerly of PASOK have indicated they would vote in favor of the whole package of reforms although they were tossed from the Socialists for refusing to go along with more austerity measures but now are backing the government.
Samaras was in Brussels as the trouble arose and he told journalists that, “It is unfair and saddening that there are dissenting voices at a time when Greece is spreading its wings to get out of the rut.”
Also of concern to the government is that Deputy Agricultural Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos from New Democracy said he might resign if government proceeds with plans to extend the shelf life of fresh milk.
Samaras’s close aide, Takis Baltakos, held talks with Harakopoulos to appease him and get him to change his mind. That tactic has usually worked before as objecting MPs have squawked loudly about an issue they didn’t like and then voted for it anyway. 







Samaras urges greater unity as list of dissenting coalition MPs grows

 A schoolteacher chants anti-austerity slogans with a loudspeaker during a sitting protest in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, on Friday.
Another two coalition MPs voiced objections on Friday to the multi-bill the government plans to submit to Parliament as part of its commitment to the troika, prompting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to express disappointment that the two-party administration is not united in the wake of Greece’s agreement with its lenders.
PASOK’s Thanos Moraitis and Nikos Sifounakis were added yesterday to the four other coalition lawmakers who are unhappy that the government is planning to change the rules on fresh milk. “Some people want to hand over the keys to the country to importers,” said Moraitis.
This is one of several liberalization measures and other reforms that are to be included in a multi-bill due to be tabled in Parliament on Monday, March 31. The draft law will have two or three articles. This means that the provision on milk, along with other measures aimed at enhancing competition, will be included in an article with more of the reforms agreed with the troika. If the government fails to gather the required votes, it would mean that the whole article would be rejected, thereby undermining the deal with Greece’s lenders.
The coalition currently has 153 seats in the 300-seat Parliament but the fact that six Golden Dawn lawmakers are in pretrial custody means that it would need a maximum of 148 votes to approve the multi-bill.
Two independent MPs, Andreas Loverdos and Christos Aidonis, have indicated they would vote in favor of the whole package of reforms.
The tension that has developed since an agreement with the troika was reached on Monday was uppermost in Samaras’s mind as he addressed journalists in Brussels at the end of the European Council. “It is unfair and saddening that there are dissenting voices at a time when Greece is spreading its wings to get out of the rut,” he said.
Also of concern to the government is that Deputy Agricultural Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos is considering resigning if the government proceeds with plans to extend the shelf life of fresh milk. Samaras’s close aide, Takis Baltakos, held talks on Friday with Harakopoulos on this issue.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 21, 2014 (20:12) 




Minister and unionists fail to agree on future of 212 teachers

The union representing secondary school teachers in Greece (OLME) failed to reach an agreement on Friday with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the future of 212 teachers who entered the public sector mobility scheme on reduced wages eight months ago but are now due to be sacked.
OLME representatives held talks with Mitsotakis yesterday but emerged last night to tell a large crowd which had been protesting outside the ministry that they had not secured a commitment for the teachers to be hired.
OLME said that it would continue its protests.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 21, 2014 (21:43) 



Sailors threaten to block ferries over unpaid wages

The Panhellenic Seamen’s Union (PNO) on Friday said that it will prevent ferry boats whose owners owe workers money from running their regular services from Thursday, March 27.
PNO said that it will start at the port of Piraeus and extend its action to other ports until overdue salaries are settled.
PNO has threatened in the past to take action against six shipowners who owe their workers months of unpaid wages.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 21, 2014 (20:20) 



Court rules 2012 bond haircut legal and warranted

 Photo from a March 2013 protest by bondholders.
The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, on Friday rejected an appeal by Greek bondholders seeking compensation for having to accept a severe haircut on the value of their investments in the debt restructuring that took place in March 2012.
Judges ruled that the haircut, also known as PSI, was in line with the Constitution and “compelled by reasons of national interest” – or avoiding a sovereign default.
The ruling did acknowledge that bondholders suffered “extremely serious” financial damage. About 7,000 retail bondholders claimed the PSI inflicted a 53.5 percent loss on their capital investment. They were ordered to pay 1,380 euros in legal expenses.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 21, 2014 (19:25) 










Greece’s coalition government at risk to drown in “fresh milk”

Posted by  in Politics
Greece’s coalition government is at risk to drown in the controversial ‘fresh milk’ market reforms with at least five government MPs threatening to downvote the relevant provision. Two lawmakers from Samaras’ Nea Dimokratia and three from PASOK have repeatedly told media that they will not vote in favor of the law aiming to open the milk market under the pretext of extending the shelf life of fresh milk.
According to the rebel lawmakers, the milk reforms will destroy the small and medium milk producers.
With a thin majority of 153 seats in a Parliament of 300, ND-PASOK coalition would face a major blow when the controversial reform will be tabled for voting. The government needs at least 151 votes to pass a law.
The OECD has repeatedly suggested to Greece to extend the duration of fresh milk in order to lower the prices for consumers. However, extending the milk duration will open the Greek milk market for foreign multinational companies as it will give them more time for the milk transport. Greece’s lenders, the Troika, are in favor of opening the market.
The duration of fresh milk is planned to be extended from 4 days currently to up to 11 days with the necessary modification in homogenization process.
According to Eurostat data from 2011, the price in Greece of dairy produce -milk and  – was 31.5 percent above the EU average in 2011, the highest in Europe.
Also two years ago, the milk prices were dramatically reduced from €0,50 to even €1 per liter at the super market shelf.
I personally remember to buy 1 liter of fresh milk 1.5% fat for €2 in 2008. three years later and after the outcry of the debt-ridden society, the price for milk from the same company went down to €1. During the last two months and due to several V.A.T. and ‘whatever’ price adjustments from the industry, milk prices went up again.
Price development for 1 liter Fresh Milk 1.5% fat
2008: €2
2012: €1
2014: €1.24
Greek dairy firms say they charge a fair price to milk producers and their sector is one of the least profitable due to high costs.
PS my cat suggested that the Greek Government would fall apart and early elections might be due just because the Troika and the OECD want Greek consumers to pay a couple of cents less for milk. But you know my cat… she has this tendency to weave  the craziest scenarios…


“Temporary” turns “permanent”: solidarity levy & trade fee

Posted by  in Economy
It’s a common knowledge that nothing is more permanent than the temporary. And so, the solidarity levy and the trade fee, that is the extraordinary taxes imposed by the Troika will most likely be collected also after 2015. Greek media report that the Greek government and the country’s lenders representatives agreed on that although some details will still need to be worked out. And some modifications and new criteria, it seems.
The economic team considers:
Solidarity Levy: Raise the lowest cap. Tax payers with annual income of at least €12,000 need to pay 1%-4% depending on income level.
Trade fee: Reduce the trade fee according to new criteria like age, employers and other. Self-employed and entrepreneurs pay €500-€600 per year, independently of whether they have revenues or not.
source: ProtoThema
PS No there will be no additional tax-collecting measures in 2014. We will just keep paying the old ones till the end of our days.


Something is moving in Greece after 4 years of depression & austerity

Posted by  in EconomySociety
I really do not understand why the unionists of public and municipality sector staged a protest in downtown Athens and a 48-hour strike. Didn’t they hear Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announcing on Tuesday a couple of measures to provide relief to society with resources coming from the primary surplus of 2.9 billion euro? I bet, they did but their problems have not much to do with the generously distributed social dividends. Thousands of civil servants and municipality workers will be laid-off this year and probably also in the year after.
The Prime Minister told us yesterday that “by 2020″ we will have overcome the economic crisis.
This sounds good and challenging and intriguing especially when you are without a job and income of any kind. The question that will burn your lips is “How will I survive until 2020?” No, the PM did not reveal this secret of happy living without spending a single euro.
Of course, there is this blessed class of laborers working for 500-1,000 euro per month. Some of them awaiting several months to receive their salary. Will they be able to survive until 2020?
I was reading the other day that 1:2 small and medium enterprises are planning to close down within 2014. I do not know if this is true but true is also that our neighborhood and suburb squares have been filled up with cafes and souvlaki diners. The entrepreneurial spirit seems to be clear: not matter how deep the crisis, the Greek will always enjoy a coffee or a drink at a cafeteria, a cheap dinner with souvlaki, pita, kebab and beer. And sauce.
So? Will Greece turn into a country growing souvlaki and cafe entrepreneurs? Possibly. At least for now. For the time being.
What should a jobless do if he happens to have some savings? Open a business where people can easily and cheap flock in. Even though the experience of the last two-three years has tough that such businesses close down after a year. But that’s the risk of investment based on wrong factors and assumptions, I suppose. But Greeks could  eventually need a decade or something to understand and apply modern marketing tools.
You see,  one of them main problems of modern Greek entrepreneurs is that they have spent the majority of their working life as employees. But due to economic crisis more than 1,3 million people were just been kicked out on the street. Therefore? Before savings are spent on paying bills and taxes, “start your own business” seems to be the slogan of our Greece in the fourth salvation year of the Troika and the loan agreements.
Yes, we are in the fourth year of Troika austerity. We lost our jobs, we got depressed. Now we need to do something.
And something is being done, indeed. There is movement. And no matter how awkward it sounds, there are job openings. Indeed. Mostly on IT sector.
But at the same time, I hear that employees had difficulties to get the ideal candidate, despite the fact they receive more than 100 CVs and motivation letters per job vacancy.
Why? Because Greece is suffering from brain drain. Many people, good and qualified people in the productive age of 25-40, have left Greece during the years of the crisis. Behind are left those qualified but with no working experience and those with working experience and qualification but who may have missed the train of  a continuously upgrading and expanding industry. And worst than this: this second group of laborers are above 40 years old.
Those above 40 who have spent most of their working life as employees face an additional difficulty to start their own business. The incredible load of social contribution. For example those who entered labor before 1993, can be forced to pay more than 500 euro per month if they change to insurance funds for entrepreneurs. Adding 26% taxation from the first euro and no tax free amount, how much money will the entrepreneur need to get in revenues to come up for contributions and taxes?
Social contributions and over taxation killing Greek entrepreneurship, the frequent changes of the taxation system give entrepreneurs the final blow.
A friend of mine, 39, an IT man with his own company is about to leave the country, after the crisis-caused financial collapse of his clients left him with a mountain of debts. He sees no future here, not for the time being.
The new frenzy among those below 35 is the startup sector. Hundreds of young, capable and ambitious Greeks rush to seminars and workshops and meetings with mentors, from conference hall to conference hall, weekend in and weekend out, connecting with people, pitching their ideas and desperately trying to secure funding. Then without funding and a thorough business plan any startup initiative can remain parked at the famous ‘home garage’.
The startup sector is tough and highly competitive and I have read that only 1 in 20 startups manage to get funding. But this new fruit growing on Greek soil has developed a new industry, that is the sector of startup consulting.
I cannot tell you how successful this consulting is and how successful Greek startups are. “There are not trustworthy data” I was told, meaning there have been no studies and surveys on the issue. I also have no idea if startups are reserved for those below 35 or if older generations try to jump in.
There is also another group of unemployed young ones, aged 25-35. As there are no statistics, my observation comes to the conclusion that:
1/3  sit together brainstorming trying to “set up something” without specific goals and targets and entrepreneurship knowledge.
1/3 has the luck that an entrepreneur parent goes into retirement and the company is being transferred on the name of the young unemployed.
1/3 has occasionally some kind of short term and bad paid job of 300-400 euro and lives in their parents home. The money is enough to cover very private expenses like going out and entertainment.
Nevertheless, main thing is that something is moving. And that’s a start after all these years and months of economic depression and helplessness.
PS Yet. It could be just the spring and the smiling sun :)
This post is based on observations in my close and broader social environment and some media/blogs articles.


Greece, Lenders Agree on Next Bailout Installment

Greece has reached a long-delayed agreement with its foreign lenders to release a badly needed installment of its economic bailout package.
Officials with the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund say Greece should receive the money within weeks.
Talks dragged on for close to seven months over a number of issues, including government spending cuts and how to keep local banks strong.
Protesters chant anti-austerity slogans during a rally in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki on March 19, 2014. /APProtesters chant anti-austerity slogans during a rally in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki on March 19, 2014. /AP
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has promised to use some of the money to directly help poor Greeks, pensioners and government workers most affected by the cuts.
Greece was one of the first countries badly hit by the global economic recession of 2008. The multi-billion-dollar bailout by the three lenders pulled it back from the edge of bankruptcy.