Greece takes creative measures to pay off debt

Jeremy Hobson Jan 24, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Now to Greece, where the debt talks continue today ahead of a March deadline. Bondholders made an offer to reduce Greece’s debt last night, but eurozone finance ministers rejected it. If the Greeks can’t reach a deal, they face a messy default. Meanwhile, the Greek government is taking other steps to boost revenues.

And journalist John Psaropoulos is with us from Athens with the details. Good morning.

John Psaropoulos: Good morning.

Hobson: Well I guess when you’re a country that is in as deep financial troubles as Greece is, you have to pull out all the stops. And it sounds like the first order of business is to release a list of tax evaders.

Psaropoulos: That’s right. The government has finally, after months of saying that it will do so, released a list of 4,000 people, some of whom owe in the hundreds of millions of euros — largely in an exercise of shaming, and of showing our European Union creditors that we are doing everything possible to recoup taxes owed.

Hobson: And shaming and embarrassing people is not the only tactic that Greece is taking to try to make ends meet. What else is going on?

Psaropoulos: Well, the government is trying to boost its revenues from tourism, which is already responsible for an estimated 20 percent of GDP. One of the ways it’s doing that is inviting film crews to come and shoot scenes in national monuments and archeological sites.

Another way is the attempt to sell off public property — millions, in fact, of acres of land — which could be sold for redevelopment. But really what a lot of economists are saying is that the key is not to sell off the family silver. The key is to re-stimulate growth in the economy, and it has to be reversed if Greece is going to stand a chance of eliminating its deficit and eventually paying down its debt.

Hobson: Journalist John Psaropoulos joining us from Athens. John, thanks a lot.

Psaropoulos: Thank you for having me.

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