Can we learn from Syriza, despite the jeers of the ‘narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy’?
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Eurozone officials recently had to call off a visit by bailout inspectors to Athens, after Greek authorities objected to a trip similar to previous audits by the “troika” — the trio of creditor institutions (IMF, EC, ECB).
Seventy people in Birmingham, including a delegation from the Spanish Podemos, came to a Left Unity meeting to hear Marina Prentoulis of Syriza speak about the situation that the new anti-austerity government is facing in Greece.
Even though – as LSE economist, Francesco Caselli writes in the FT – collecting taxes is central to any attempt to rebuild the Greek government’s ability to secure revenues meeting the needs of an industrialised economy, EC uncivil servants were said to have “laughed out loud” and described the Greek proposal to combat value added tax evasion as “quite hilarious, if it were not so tragic”. Caselli comments:
”Greece is at the mercy of a narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy ignorant of local culture and history and incapable of recognising truly creative, promising, innovative ideas that might help Greece out of its horrendous predicament”.
“Anyone with the slightest experience of life in countries where value added tax is routinely flouted (a category that clearly does not include the officials in question) knows that no matter how sternly the government promises fines and punishments for the evaders, nothing will change until the deeply ingrained culture of tacit acquiescence by customers is broken”.
Caselli mentions two successful measures which yielded large tax receipts and, “perhaps more importantly, did much to shatter the culture of passive acquiescence”:
- In the 1990s Italy fined customers who left a shop without a receipt,
- and Argentina exchanged receipts for lottery tickets.
He adds: “It is a fair bet that eurozone officials would have laughed out loud if confronted with such ideas. Far better to carry on destroying the economy and living standards with the current litany of cuts in employment, social transfers and social services”.