Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Overheard in a Business Meeting

The Chairman's mobile phone rings. An Asian voice speaks on a very crackly line.

"Hello sir, this is Vodafone calling. Is it convenient to speak to you now?"

"No, I'm in a business meeting in Greece."

"When would it be convenient to call you?"

"Never? How does never suit you?"

"Sorry to disturb you."


These calls are never from Vodafone itself, but some 3rd party dealer trying to get you to switch to their billing and using a call centre in Uzbekistan.

I finally saw evidence of Greece's financial woes yesterday. Akti Miaouli, a street in the heart of the shipping district of Piraeus, used to be a hive of bustling activity with numerous shops. Over half of them are now closed and derelict.

I was hoping to conclude a major deal with the Greek Navy this week, but I was informed at a meeting with them yesterday that the whole of the armed forces budget had been frozen until the economic crisis was resolved. This is despite increased tensions between Turkey and Greece due to oil drilling operations in the sea between Cyprus and Israel. A very dangerous situation.

According to taxi drivers (and they are the font of all knowledge the world over), Greece's problems are threefold - public sector jobs that don't exist (although the people in the positions do), a tax collection regime that's shot to hell, and a government unwillingness to face up to reality. The first problem has been there since the Army ran the country, as on the transition to democracy they ensured that their cronies were moved into these non-existent public sector positions as a reward for loyalty.

This is my first visit back to Greece since they went into the Euro - and it's very obvious that prices have spiralled. The place used to be cheap, but looking at prices now you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in Berlin - despite very obviously not being so. Mind you, Germany owns most of the country now.

Having nothing better to do, I tried to watch an ice hockey match on satellite TV last night. It's impossible to watch; the thing they're all trying to hit moves so bloody fast that you can't even see it. It's just a mass of blokes going up and down the pitch (field? rink?) like a swarm of bees. Pointless from a TV spectator's perspective. I think it's just the occasional fights that relieve the tedium.


  1. Ice hockey is probably a bit like the Greek economic crisis. To understand it, you have to be there.

  2. Bring back the Spartans!

    They could examine each public sector job and leave the non-existent ones on Mount Taygetos to die.

  3. Actually your comments are very interesting. From now on you can regard yourself as an accredited Foreign Correspondent for News from Nowhere.