Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lewis on Greece

If you missed Michael Lewis' article about Greece in last October's Vanity Fair, it's well worth a read:
Here's an extract:
"In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of E100m against an annual wage bill of E400m, plus E300m in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns E65,000 a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned Minister of Finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,” Manos put it to me. “And yet there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.” The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average—and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets."


Blogger Angus said...

He should try Italy.

10:01 am  
Blogger Marian said...

I did read this article in Vanity Fair and I have to say I actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of the situation. I'm all for some sort of "safety net" for people but this is ludicrous.
P.S. I loved your post on Canaletto.

1:17 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Indeed, Angus!

Welcome to my blog, Marian! Glad you enjoyed the Canaletto post.

8:57 am  
Anonymous kinglear said...

I live next door to a Greek who is seriously like his country. Despite having a car of his own, he hires one every weekend. He has been charging it up to his ex-wifes credit card. She found out a few weeks ago. Since then he has been raging about the iniquity of life... and taking out yet another loan to repay the ex-wife, who has successfully obtained decree against him, a lien over the house, and taken his car in part payment!

3:08 pm  

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