By: David A. Smith
[Continued from yesterday’s Part 1]
Four parts into this meticulous exploration of the challenges of establishing land ownership in Greece, using articles from both Reuters (18 October 2015) and the New York Times (26 May 2013; sepia font), we know that the problem of land irresolution is deep-seated, pervasive in both rural and urban environments, and so woven into the Greek culture and economy that its untangling would be worthy of Heraklion’s namesake, especially because many Greeks, including many Greek civil servants, like it dirty.
Over the years, I’ve twice before cited Mr. Papaconstantinou, and each time presented him as unequivocally one of the good guys, first for sounding the alarm on Greece in 2009 and seeking an orderly restructuring (partial writeoff or rescheduling) and later in 2015 for his efforts to clean up (streamline, improve, rationalize) tax collection in Greece.
Is this any way to run a country?
– tried to speed up the exercise as environment minister in 2011 but ran into a wall of opposition.
As Mr. Papaconstantinou found, at the cost of a year in judicial purgatory, if delaying fail, the nomenklatura (low-level informal and corrupt public and private actors) will sabotage the reformers with means most foul, such as trumped-up charge of corruption (Guardian, March 24, 2015):
A tribunal exonerated Greece’s former finance minister George Papaconstantinou over his handling of the infamous Lagarde List of wealthy Greeks with secret bank accounts abroad.
[The recent revelation of the Panama Papers has spotlighted the extent to which prominent people, some of them in public office, have gone to conceal their wealth. – Ed.]
Beyond scope for AHI, but sit back and get a bucket of popcorn
“This is as close to an acquittal as would be possible in the circumstances,” a court official told the Guardian.
6. Obstruction has become a purpose in its own right
In fact, obstruction has become its own purpose.
Cadaster reform was started in 1995 –
Four years before the Euro currency was launched, with Greece as a founding Euro country.
– with EU funds that had to be returned to Brussels in 2003 because of misuse.
Way back then, nearly twenty years ago, those of us who doubted the Euro criticized it as an economic yoke intended as a political aspiration, faulting it not for its goals but for its decision sequence. Political union has to precede economic union, because economic union without political union invites every sort of moral hazard, free rider, and principal-agent risk in the textbook. But in the pre-millennial Euro-phoria that gripped the stronger nations’ capitals, all the weaker economies were invited in, on the premise that being in the club would reform their previously slothful ways.
This state of affairs is particularly galling because Greece has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem over the past two decades, but has little to show for it.
Instead, we cynics were proven right: once in the club, not only did Greece and Italy continue in their spendthrift mezzogiorno ways, so too did Spain and France, because after all, what’s a budget deficit above 3% of GDP among friends?
What’s a little budget deficit among sleeping friends?
By now, the selective incompetence that Greece has been showing in its inability to reform itself has undoubtedly worked – between the refugees streaming through the Balkansk, Brxit (didn’t see that coming, did Europe?), and Recep Erdogan’s turning WWE heel by ripping off the mask of respectability, I doubt anyone in Brussels is terribly concerned right now with toasting Greek tootsies.
Now look, Alex, the essence of kayfabe is that you pretend to comply, I pretend to believe you, and everyone else thinks it’s real – got it?
On the other hand, enforcement has its virtues, even if the enforcement is imposed by ostracizing the deadbeat, as I showed in Time to thank the vultures? Part 1, A crack in the wall of secrecy and Part 2, Any investigator anywhere in the world:
Are you glad the Panama Papers came to light?
With numerous governments already announcing probes into the Panama papers and others preparing to do so, Mossack Fonseca, the law firm from which the hoard of documents about offshore companies was leaked, will be receiving lots of inquiries in the coming months.
Then you have an unlikely hero to thank, one hiding in plain sight:
John Doe is one of the two unsung heroes of this story
I’d have got away with it if not for those meddlesome hedge funds
As we glimpsed in yesterday’s Part 1, using the unwitting diptych of two Economist stories from the same April 16, 2016 issue, the first a sidelight on the Panama Papers, the second Economist (April 16, 2016; buff blue font), the best systems of governance and human organization set up systems where the single-minded pursuit of self-interest produces additionality as an ecosystemic byproduct.
That’s the political-theorist’s way of saying that Elliott Management’s obsessive pursuit of hidden Argentinian sovereign assets led it to crack open the wall of secrecy surrounding one of the world’s most underappreciated criminality-facilitating law firms, Mossack Fonseca, whose client list includes both those who earn their money in high-tax countries and those who earn it in no-rules countries.
We’re everywhere a crook may want to be!
And puncturing the Mossack shell allows Elliott, and anyone who chooses to follow it, a global-secrecy endoscopy:
We know you swallowed the documents – now, where are they?
But [March 2015 Las Vegas court ruling]’s full significance is only now becoming apparent: it means that, under an American law about assisting with foreign legal proceedings, any investigator anywhere in the world can subpoena Mossack, through the Nevada subsidiary, for information that could be relevant to cases in any country.
Meanwhile, the same Elliott that crowbarred open Mossack Fonseca was also instrumental in Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s downfall; Mr. Macri would never have been elected without the holdouts’ diligence in nailing shut any aperture to the capital markets.
While all this was going on, halfway through May, I embarked on what would prove to be six weeks all over the place (California, Washington, Jeddah, and Scotland), including an Actual Vacation, which led at least one concerned to write me, necessitating a reply that repots of my renunciation of blogging Are greatly exaggerated:
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Can‘t be a genie without a turban, can you?
Last week, and much of this week, I was in California, first at the California Housing Consortium’s 2016 Policy Forum and California Housing Hall of Fame Awards, as the Genie offering three wishes to an All-American panel of visionaries red, white, and blue – with the winner decided by live votes of the roughly 350 people in attendance.
Right here, direct from the lamp for your very much wish-fulfillment
So effective was the exercise of conjuring a genie and inviting panelists to conjure three wishes that its use as a brainstorming or art-of-the-possible-tool may become the subject of a future blog post – once, that is, that I’ve fully internalized being back in the one-a-day schedule of posting these.
A blog post a day keeps the boredom away
Thanks for your loyalty and your patience in this dark time!