Against Bashing Greece : The Greek Utopia

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Constantakopoulos: We had to let some go but we hired some others, too. Now we are already developing a second site in a huge area—where we anticipate that we will create more job opportunities in the immediate future.

Retsos: You are mostly talking about newly established companies. But being in a 50-year company, I can surely tell you that we might have changed the persons but the workspace remained the same and in some cases was even increased.

Are there other people from the private sector who actually profited from the old way of state business in Greece, and are they still powerful?

Veremis: There are the guys who benefitted directly from running the show. But there is a whole class of people who make significant sacrifices, they started in good jobs, had a family of three or four kids, went through the ranks of management in these companies, and at some point found themselves in the past four years without a job. These guys are a different case of the unemployed underclass. These are highly educated, upwardly mobile managers of five years ago, with their kids in private schools, everything going well, and suddenly their world has collapsed from here to zero. There are plenty of people like that. I personally know quite a few.

Boutaris: And businessmen also, who have had a healthy business… having like 40-50 employees, doing like €10 million turnover, and suddenly this is gone. Construction and everything around construction is gone.

Veremis: Some of them are moving to Kathar or to Dubai, because these are highly qualified engineers, architects.

Constantakopoulos: We need growth. But you cannot cut your way to growth. there has to be some growth. If you cut an old ladies’ pension, that €20 or €50, the propensity of that going to consumption was probably 98%. So actually you are cutting from the economy.

Boutaris: A lot of time was lost.

Constantakopoulos: A lot of people have lost their jobs, lost their income, lost their household, what are we doing for them? I think that we, as a country, as a sector, as a society, the best thing we can do is create sustainable jobs. In the meantime and until we reach a stage that all people can live with decency everybody must do their share in helping. I know NGOs, that you can call from your house and say, “I have ten apples left over.” They can hook you up with somebody who needs that. It is incredible ingenuity—on how on a detail level they can do that. I have a half of a loaf of bread that is left.

And you can use it… it has been a tremendous move and thought of how we can help each other.  Or for example, the church and some other institutes: you go in the supermarket and buy something, and then you can put in a special basket, by every cashier in most of the Greek supermarkets, They tell you: We are in need of pasta, or milk, etc. They use a tremendous amount of volunteer ingenuity. The hunger in Greece is minimised.

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