Shortly after Dutch finance minister, said “We want no further delays” came news of further delays. The reason: Greek political parties all refuse to go along with more austerity measures.

Please consider Greece’s leaders oppose new austerity measures

All three party leaders in Greece’s teetering national unity government have opposed new austerity measures demanded by international lenders, forcing eurozone finance ministers to postpone approval of a new €130bn bail-out and moving the country closer to a full-blown default.

Representatives of the so-called “troika” – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – have demanded further cuts in government jobs and severe reductions in Greek salaries, including an immediate 25 per cent cut in the €750 minimum monthly wage, before agreeing the new rescue.

But representatives of all three coalition partners, including centre-left Pasok of former prime minister George Papandreou and the centre-right New Democracy of likely successor Antonis Samaras, said they were unwilling to back the government layoffs.

In addition, a Greek government official said the EU and IMF negotiators rejected a counter-proposal that would have frozen Greek wages for three years and cut social security contributions by 10 per cent.

Finance ministers from the four remaining triple As – Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Luxembourg – met in Berlin on Friday where they agreed that Athens must move quickly or they would withhold assistance.

“We want no further delays,” Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch finance minister, said after the meeting.

The delays in Athens could give new momentum to officials in Germany, the Netherlands and Finland who have been agitating to abandon the cornerstone of the new bail-out – a €200bn bond swap in which private debt holders would accept losses of 50 per cent in the face value of their holdings. A full-scale default would allow Greece to write off all privately held debt.

The brinkmanship in Athens became so intense on Friday that a government spokesman was forced to deny reports that the acting technocratic prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was considering resigning if governing parties did not agree to the new measures.

Keyword of the Day is “Hardball”

In case you missed it here is the key phrase “EU and IMF negotiators rejected a counter-proposal that would have frozen Greek wages for three years and cut social security contributions by 10 per cent.”

That was a pretty significant offer by Greece in the midst of an economic depression. There was no counter-offer, only a take-it-or-leave-it hardball.

For now, Greece said “Leave It” so you can add that to the words of the day as well. As I have said numerous times recently, Germany wants Greece out of the Eurozone. Those actions reinforce my opinion. Germany could easily have said a Greek wage freeze for three years and cut social security contributions by 10 per cent would suffice.

Minimum Wage

I am not a fan of minimum wage laws at all. However, let’s ponder Germany’s demand. A “25 per cent cut in the €750 minimum monthly wage” would take the minimum wage down to €562.5, roughly $739 a month.


According to Wikipedia the following Greece Taxes apply.

  • Social Security Tax: 16%
  • VAT: as high as 23% (Category 2 goods 4.5%)
  • Income Tax: Progressive

I cannot find a precise description of Category 2, but eating out is category 1 and taxed at 23%. Minimum wage appears to avoid income tax.

The after SS-tax income at the proposed minimum wage is $621 a month or $7452 per year.

How far will a take-home pay of $7452 per year go?

Living Greece discusses Value-added tax (VAT) rates in Greece

  • Greece has the third highest rate of VAT in Europe
  • Second highest gas/petrol tax
  • Third highest tax on social insurance contributions
  • Fifth highest VAT on alcohol
  • Highest property tax
  • One of the worst corporate tax rates
  • Without the quality of living or competitiveness to match

Bear in mind that was from 2010.

On the assumption that everyone earning minimum wage is spending every penny of it, subtract another 10% to 20% in actual purchasing power.

Keep Talking Greece has a humorous (to those not from Greece) article on Greek VAT Insanity: 6.5% for Foreigners, 23% for Greeks

That Greece is an absurd country I knew the moment I decided to return from living abroad over some decades. But it was beyond my vivid imagination that I will have to experience this, day by day – and even moment to moment. With a decision that touches the limits of European constitution because of discrimination against the citizens of this hapless country, the Finance Minister announced that the increased VAT of 23% on catering goods will be paid only by the Greeks -meanwhile known also as money-spewing machines!

Earlier on Monday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos clarified that the increased VAT from 13% to 23% will apply to restaurants, taverns, cafes and hotel restaurants. However if you buy an All-Inclusive package abroad, you will have a 6.5% VAT. Greeks who will buy similar packages in the country will pay 23% VAT.

The new increased VAT regulations are as complicated as they can be: there is a different VAT for consuming sitting or standing (restaurant/cafe), different for take away (but only if you take it yourself, not through delivery boy).

In short a pizza has four different VAT depending on whether you sit, stand, walk or lay (hotel room/all-inclusive).

Tortured to Death

The point of this discussion is not about minimum wage, but about absurd taxes on top of a reduction in minimum wages at a time the Greek economy is already imploding.

I am 100% in favor of work rule changes, pension changes, etc., but the tax hikes and tax structures are insane.

Furthermore, I fail to see how increased taxation and further austerity measures can possibly help Greece in the short-run. And by the way, the short run has now been extended to 2020 from 2013. 

Greece is imploding. It’s really too bad Greece did not exit the Eurozone three years ago instead of now smack in the midst of a depression.

Moreover, this is exactly what Spain and Portugal ought to be thinking about as well.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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