Death Threats, Taxes, Greek Shipowners, Lagarde

The statement made by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, to the Financial Times that she was threatened when she said that the rich Greeks – especially the shipowners – don’t pay their fair share was not given all the attention it deserves.

Because beyond the revelation that she received death threats there are other points in the interview worth considering.
To give you the whole picture, I present what was said and what was implied, for the statements to be understood properly.

Besides, we do not often have the opportunity to be get a sense of how she sees Greece. Lagarde started by praising the “smart” way that the Irish – and Portuguese -have faced the crisis, but FT adds: “Greece, though, is another matter.” Note the clear denigration of the country!

And then she said that her life was threatened when she called upon the rich, especially the ship owners, and “others” to pay their fair share of taxes, making it necessary to strengthen her security team.

“But is the shipping industry really paying its taxes? Are others? I don’t think so” she said.

When the head of the international organization that effectively manages the country’s debt speaks that way, we really have to pay attention.

First, I mentioned the disdainful manner in which she spoke about the country.

Secondly, she revealed the threats she received. Bear with me here because I find it difficult to believe that she was indeed threatened. It seems a little farfetched. Can something like this be revealed? Doesn’t it constitute a secret? Is there not associated with it the risk that its’ disclosure will spawn imitators?

Thirdly, however, her statement about ship owners – and others – puts her finger on a very serious issue.

One of the black spots of the economic crisis is that wealthy Greeks in Greece and abroad – with few exceptions, such as the Niarchos Foundation, Michael Jaharis, the Hellenic Relief Foundation – have not responded at the level demanded by historic circumstances and their financial ability.

Most of the charitable giving has come from people of few means within Greece who rise to the occasion. The rich, the majority of them, are playing the role of analysts and observers.

This is not the view only of people such as Lagarde and Andreas Dracopoulos of the Niarchos Foundation, who has spoken about it for years, but the international community and the people of Greece.