Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Is that my name? Greece reveals bribery in public sector

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new Web site in the financially beleaguered nation of Greece has become remarkably popular in just a brief short two weeks. The entries simply state stories about bribery on the part of local merchants. Once exposed on the Internet, these merchants relent and take the high road. "Naming and shaming" is the latest Internet fad in Greece.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Shortly after going online, the site has logged 40,000 visitors and highlighted more than $85,000 in bribes requested and paid.

"What we've noticed is how incredible the bribes can be," Panos Louridas, one of several volunteers who built the Web site says. "The funniest thing I saw was a hospital patient who had bribed staff to allow his wife to sleep in an empty second bed in his room. It was reported by a patient in an adjacent room."

The name of the site teleiakaipavla.gr, which loosely translates in English as "Stop it. Period." Names and dates are not mentioned, but institutions are such as hospitals are.

"Five thousand euro was requested to reduce penalties following an audit of company books for the years 1998-2003." The money was paid.

This Internet game has been likened to a game of "chicken," as to who will blink first. As was the case of one doctor who "was careful not to ask for anything, but she sat there in front of me without saying anything. Well ..." The doctor ended up happily accepting 800 euros she hadn't asked for.

Among the countless personages identified on the site are the tax collector who blackmails a business, a surgeon who turns public healthcare into private practice and an official who wants a "grigorosimo," or speed-up fee to avoid delays.

Corruption is a big part of Greece's unrecorded and untaxed economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development places the money spent on underhanded deals at roughly $90 billion annually, dwarfing the deficit of $17 billion.

It is here where the root of Greece's current economic troubles stems from: Corruption is also a major hidden expense of doing business in Greece, helping to keep out foreign investment.

According to Transparency International's latest "Corruption Perceptions Index", which tracks public and private corruption, Greece tied for 80th place with El Salvador, Colombia, Morocco and Peru. It lags behind every European Union member, save Bulgaria, including many Eastern bloc nations that have had a mere 20 years experience with free-market economics and democracy.

Socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou, who came to power in 1981, was seen by some as a social revolution.

"Papandreou essentially tried to do a good thing in empowering a disadvantaged population, but he abolished meritocracy and awarded positions of responsibility to socialist goons," Kostas Bakouris, the head of Transparency International's Greek office says.

"Society was flattened, principle disappeared, people became selfish and stopped feeling any social solidarity," he adds. "The prime minister allowed people to take bribes, and the result was that there was inculcated a tendency to sidestep the law."

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)