Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The similarities of Malaysia and Greece

The Greeks seem to have outdone Malaysia for the time being. No wonder Professor Danny Quah of the London School of Economics openly warned that Malaysia can be heading the way of Greece if it continues with its present policies.

I have just watched a documentary regarding Greece 's financial and am appalled ! These are the why's and how's that this historic and beautiful country came to grieve.

Bureaucracy: Greece's bureaucracy is famous in the whole of Europe ! To open a cafe or pub there are 25 processes to go through !! This is a country of rules and regulations.

Bloated civil service: There are 1.05 milliion civil servants (excluding police and armed forces) . The population of Greece is only 10 million !! More than 10% are govt servants !! Salary increases every year and benefit for civil servants in Greece is one of the best in Europe !! More and more money is needed to upkeep this bloated civil servants . The retirement age is 62 yrs old.

Corruption: Greece is the most corrupted nation in the Eurozone. Citizens pay "under table" money to:

# admit into a public hospital

# pass a driving licence

# to enter public service

# renovate your business premises or your home

# avoid income tax

Every govt project is awarded to political cronies and at hugely inflated prices ! Transparency International compared the prices of the construction costs of stadiums built for the Athens Olympics recently with similar structures in China --500% more expensive than the Chinese , compared to Los Angeles and Sydney -- 50 % more expensive !!! All these with tax payers money ! and borrowings !!!

Tax evasion: Officially 80% of its citizens are supposed to pay tax but only 37% are doing so. Big businessmen and corporations have refined tax evasion to a fine art ( or have the tax men taken some coffee money ? )

No transparency in governance: The politicians and bureaucrats falsified economic data and painted a rosy and manageable picture while the economy was rotting away .

Unabated borrowings: Meanwhile, the politicians and bureaucrats continue to issue govt bonds to keep afloat, series after series. They were trying to cover up the financial mess they have created creating one big hole to cover up the previous !!

Lacking political will power to reform: To keep hold on to political power, politicians are prepared to lie, commit economic and political fraud. If reforms were taken some five years ago , the country need not go bankrupt and its citizens need not suffer so much. Political expediency and greed to political power over-rides everything and hence Greece is now a bankrupt country. Luckily, it is part of the European Union and its currency is EUROs, otherwise Greeks will have to eat grass to survive !!

Laid back attitude: Tourism is THE ONLY industry in Greece and over the years the Greeks have had an easy time. Many flocked to see the historical sites. enjoy summer vacation on the islands. But they forgot that not many tourists will returned after visiting the sites --there are so many other tourists attractions in the world, maybe more exotic and perhaps cheaper !! So once tourism vanes and couple with higher costs of living --the Greeks could not and refused to adapt and transform --still partying and having a nice time -- maybe the Greek Gods will bless them !!! Greece have no natural resources, no electronics industry , no R & D --no anything !! They were so laid back --cannot see what is coming and crashing down on them. Even now, the civil servants refused to take a pay cut -- the world owes them a living !!

Poignant Conclusion:

The producer of the documentary had hired a raxi driver to go around while doing this documentary. The taxi driver had studied economics for 4 years in US and this was his parting words:

"My biggest mistake was returning 15 years ago, I should have stayed back in US. My nationalist instinct made me returned. The politicians screwed me. I loved my country but my country did not love me !!!!"

Friends, I can see a lot of similarity in Malaysia . I need not go into boring details, it is there for all to realise. Unless we transform politically and economically, sadly this day will surely come.

It is not IF, but WHEN !!


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