IS GREECE B.L.R. ?
B.L.R. stands for Beyond Logical Repair. When an item is deemed B.L.R. it is to be discarded. Can a country be deemed B.L.R ? No. A country is not an item so it can not be discarded. What can be discarded is the cause of what has brought a country to a state where B.L.R is a condescending way to describe its present state of being, but nonetheless one which connotes a messy state of affairs, a country in disarray and Greece presently can convey that impression.
The country badly needs to restructure its Economy to make it competitive and friendly to its people. The restructure is part of the obligations assumed at the insistence of its Eurozone partners who saved the country from defaulting on its Debt. They want to ensure the repayment of their loans to Greece and one sure way is to help Greece become competitive, free from the restrictions of every kind to Free Enterprise which have “blossomed” in its supposedly “free” Economy. The Government, therefore must, among other things, “open” the professions and trades that are currently restricted, like public notaries, pharmacies, carriers etc. It went about it half heartedly, succumbing to the pressure from those affected and so now, with the new plan to contain deficits and make Greece attractive to foreign investments it must cover the lost ground.
One of the sectors that has been sheltered from competition is taxi cabs, a trade so privileged and so provocative in its ways that it has alienated people, its customers. At a busy spot one can hail a cab and be asked by the driver : where are you going? If one’s destination does not suit the driver, who has some other route in mind, off he goes without a word! To be fair a few drivers are polite. They throw one word at your face … NO and they move on. If one is lucky to find a cab going his/her way at a busy time, one may soon be riding in the company of one or two or three more passengers to whom the driver grants the favor of taking them in his cab because they are all heading more or less to the same direction and so the driver will stop at the pre-agreed spot to let each of the other passengers off. He thus turns his taxi to a micro-buss and collects from each passenger the fare shown on the taximeter at the spot where each one gets off. One can only imagine the bewilderment of foreign visitors when they go through this. Alas it is not the only way Greek taxi drivers impress visitors with their hospitality. They “tease” the taximeter and, thus, oblige the unfortunate visitors to pay an inexcusably high fare. If the Ministry of Tourism ever decides to compel taxis to have a list of “usual” destinations with the corresponding indicative fare, say Airport to Athens city center, or Piraeus Port to the Acropolis, shown at the back of the driver’s seat, even better adhered on the side of the rear window so passengers would know in advance the cost of the ride, the taxis owners would refuse to accept it and that’s that. They know they will not suffer any repercussions. All Governments, since 1981 have treated them with kid gloves.
The Government is now compelled to liberalize the trade. Everyone should now be permitted to have and operate a taxi. The law of supply and demand will adjust the number of taxis in each area and city. The problem, however is that there are people who have “bought” from retiring taxi owners the license paying as much as100000 Euros for it and also that many taxi owners intend to sell the precious license on retirement to, thus, contribute to their retirement income and so the taxi owners are up in arms. They block the entrances and exits of the airport and of Piraeus and other ports, obliging the visitors to walk for stretches carrying their luggage under the hot July sun, a sight that is instantly broadcast around the world to discourage tourism in the peak season, with all the ensuing negatives to Greece’s image as a tourist destination and the repercussions to the rest of the Economy. They block the exit of the cruise ships passengers and also spill motor oil in the street where the coaches are parked ready to take the tourists to Athens so that the coaches can not safely move and thus leave their passengers stranded there. The loss to the Economy of Athens is 500000 Euros a day, what the tourists from the cruise ships would have spent if they had been allowed to visit the usual Athens sights and tourist spots. For every 40000 Euros lost in the tourist sector of the Economy one employment position is lost. So what. The owners of the taxis are the only group of Greeks that matter. They have even threatened that there will be bloodshed if the Government dares to pass the law and open the trade to all and they mean it. They attacked a leading Radio and TV station which had “dared” film their aggressive ways and broadcast them in its evening news. They hurled rocks which broke through its windows barely missing personnel at work. They even attempted to raid the station, but the police arrived on time. The head of the taxi owners union approved the violence saying the station knows why it is being attacked!! In plain language the station should not have shown in its newscast the aggressions of the taxi owners. Freedom of the press? Only by permission of the taxi owners.
The center of Athens blocked by the Taxi owners, people can not reach it, shops are empty, in the middle of the traditional summer sales, the shop owners in despair. They should suffer. The taxi owners are at odds with the Minister of transportation and so they wage war against the Greek Economy, against the Greek society. The Logic of this?
But the taxi owners are crafty with P.R. They take over (who dares resist them) the toll stations at the toll ways lift the bars and let all vehicles pas through for free. They take over the entrances to museums and other tourist sights and let the visitors go in free of charge. They own Greece. How did the taxi owners come to feel this way, even threatening with bloodshed ? The politicians know.
If the Public Prosecutor’s office decides to take any action against the union, or the “mob” of the taxi owners will there be any consequences? Hardly. The Greek Judicial system is a part of the problem. Courts tend to be lenient. Furthermore jail sentences of up to five years can be served with money, three Euros for each day of the sentence. A jail sentence of five years is not what one gets for a misdemeanor, so the perpetrator of an offence punishable by the habitually lenient courts can afford to pay 5475 Euros and be free to continue as before.
Where are the politicians who have instilled to all the impression that there is no problem with contempt of the laws even of the courts. They are in the Government, in the Opposition, in Parliament, they are the leaders of Greece. They are responsible for every thing that is wrong in Greece. B.L.R does not seem inappropriate to describe the state of the country nowadays.