Before we start, here’s some clues. ‘Solution’ has several meanings, and one involves dissolving stuff in water. There’s all the hint you need.
So, the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Union generally are all owed money by Greece, which doesn’t have any. To quote some sage advice from my Dad, if someone owes you money and they don’t have any, then it’s BOTH of you who have a problem.
Unlike the worldwide Global Finacial Crisis, where most of the money that was lost was private money, this is mostly institutional money, and the attitude of the Greek person on the street, is “The EU can afford it, pass the loukoumades*”.
The problem, of course is that this problem, bought about by stupidly generous pensions, too high wages and an almost psychotic avoidance of tax, is now biting hard.
I’ve seen some people say “See- that’s what Socialism does for you” – and those people are wrong.
I’ve seen some people say “See- that’s what Capitalism does for you” – and those people are wrong.
The issue is that Greeks seem comfortable with being private capitalists – what’s mine is mine – and also social socialists – what’s public is also mine.
One highly regarded financial commentator told me** that there is a luxury tax of a few hundred euros on swimming pools in Greece, and according to the tax office there are only 1800 swimming pools in the whole country. However, camouflage covers to stop swimming pools being seen from the air are a massive seller at hardware stores.
So, what is needed here is a radical solution. Not for the first time. If you recall I wrote something somewhere once*** about a radical solution that was once invented in Athens to keep a tyrant in power. Cleisthenes came up with this thing called democracy, and though it was a shallow exercise in self-preservation, it caught on, got modified and is generally considered to be quite excellent by people who avoid unpleasantness like servitude, rapacious taxation and being taken into the jungle and shot by the government.
So, here’s my radical solution: Tea.
Now, before you say anything (such as “That’s your solution to everything”), hear me out.
Greeks drink coffee incessantly. I’ve done the sums and it appears that the average is two cups per day per person*. This includes babies who don’t drink it, but that’s stats for you. They have the 16th highest per capita consumption in the world, and the exciting news is that 50% (roughly) of consumption is outside the home in cafe and restaurants.
When it comes to tea, they come in 97th, with an average of just 1.1 cups per week.
From my extensive**** research, I’ve worked out that he debt for each Greek person is only 145 euros, give or take.
So, here’s how it works.
Ban all coffee consumption outside the home. Force cafes and restaurants to serve tea. And tax the tea. (sorry to any Americans who may have fainted just then)
If each of the 7 cups per week that are taken outside the home become tea, not coffee, then the sums are quite simple: if .39 euros are recovered from each cup, then the repayment is achieved in a year.
And where to get the tea from?
Much as The Devotea would be only too willing to provide enough tea to serve 11 million people a cup a day for a year, there’s a more obvious answer: Germany. Germany is one of the largest tea transit countries for tea in the world.
So, once the current dud Greek government is replaced shortly, the new guys do a deal with Germany: provide us tea and you’ll get a commercial profit plus .39 euros per cup back. They do a deal with the populace for a year: drink tea or we’ll penalise you to a greater fiscal extent. And nobody mentions Greek Mountain tea.
A year down the track: European Union is happy, Greece jumps up the tea consumption table to 91 (between Moldova and Iceland), their population has a grumble but gets on with life, tea farmers have a great year and I’m modestly receiving the Grand Cross of The Pheonix from a grateful Greek government.
A fine solution, indeed.
*If you’ve not heard of loukoumades, stop what you are doing and obtain some.
** me and 200 others at a conference, but it just sounded better without the actual detail.
*** not even I can remember when I wrote about Cleisthenes, but I’m sure I nicked all my material from one of Tom Holland’s excellent books.
**** I googled it.