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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 September 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2016 23 GREECE Democracy Forum Among the highlights of the four-day event was the appearance via 'Google Hangout' of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who argued that privacy is more important than freedom of speech in a discussion with Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, who was also presented with the Democracy Award of the City of Athens. Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate economist and columnist for The New York Times, repeated his views that Greece would be far better off if it left the euro currency and returned to drachma. He also moderated a panel on democracy and business, featuring Yanis Varoufakis, who blamed EU leadership for not responding appropriately to the financial crisis and the failing bank sector. European commissioner on migration Dimitris Avramopoulos admitted that the EU needs Turkey in order to handle the refugee influx, while Roth urged against the demonising of migrants, which is a rising phenomenon in many western countries. After an initial two-day succession of panels in various places in Athens, the ADF then moved to the luxury resort of Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese, for a weekend of leisure activities and ecotourism, with a panel on the interaction between democracy and architecture. Videos of the panels, addresses and discussions that took place during this ideafilled four-day event, can be found online, at the official Athens Democracy Forum website: www.athensdemocracyforum.com/ ancient Greek agoras’ where democracy was born more than 2,000 years ago. Despite the political turbulence of recent years, it's important to note Greece's significance as a valuable model of democratic governance and values. Why is it important for a news organisation such as The New York Times to set up the ADF? As a news organisation, The New York Times understands the importance of democracy and its values very well. The New York Times prides itself on reporting – without fear or favour – on the pressing issues that matter to our readers. Our ability to fulfil this obligation is reliant on the values and ideals underpinning liberal democracies: free speech and press, rule of law and equality under the law, protection of human rights as well as robust civic engagement. By highlighting, and robustly debating, the significant issues that challenge liberal democratic societies, economies and their general way of life, the forum aims to ensure that democracy continues to work as it should, that is, for the benefit of all people in society. Who would you want to see participating in the ADF, but have yet to get on board? There are many thinkers on democracy that we would want to attract so it is difficult to outline a long list, but if I was to point out a handful, they are people like Justin Trudeau, as he represents a new breed of visionary politicians; Mauricio Macri, as we would like to have a leader from Latin America; Eric Schmidt of Google; Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, as it would be pertinent to see how the corporate world of technology is changing the debate on democracy's evolution; Dambisa Moyo, as democracy needs the voice of activists; Ouided Bouchamaoui, who brought hope to Tunisia and the Arab Spring; Kevin Rudd, as he is so outspoken and his current role as president of the Asia Society will bring a new dimension; more refugees and students to make the forum even more rounded and inclusive; and many, many others. How has your professional experience influenced your outlook on life? I am lucky to be working for an institution (The New York Times) that has freedom of speech and diversity of opinion as its core values. Freedom and diversity are also two guiding principles in my life. Through my professional experience I have managed work and teams in different cities and cultures (Sydney, Hong Kong, Paris, London and up to a point, Athens). I have come to learn that despite all we read in management books, my ‘4 Hs’ of intercultural management are: Humanity, Humility, Honesty and Humour. Armed with these one can survive and excel in any culture. How has your Greek background affected your professional development? I approach my work on the Athens Democracy Forum by wearing two hats: one, of course, is as an executive of The New York Times and my desire and obligation to fulfill its mission of enhancing society through quality news and information. The other, more personal hat, is that of a member of the Greek diaspora. As an Australian-born Greek, my parents instilled in me a sense of Greek heritage and culture, so I find myself today wanting to spread this to the world. I’m not only inspired by the historical fact of Greece as the birthplace of democracy, but more importantly, because I believe that the current struggle that Greece is going through is something from which the world can learn and out of which democracy can evolve in a time of profound transformation for our world. As Socrates said: "I am not a citizen of Athens or of Greece, but of the world". To me this is my guiding principle in life and what it means to be Greek. Numbers don’t lie: the sorry state of the Greek economy Greece has a lot of ground to cover in order to escape the never-ending crisis − and that is 100 per cent accurate VANGELIS TSONOS It's not THAT bad, is it? Actually, it's worse than that. In past weeks several reports have reached the surface about the country that is well into its seventh year of recession (a post WWII record). And they all point to the exact same thing; that Greece is a long way from digging itself out of the hole. Just take a look at the numbers. • 47 per cent: The current youth unem- ployment rate in Greece, ranked #1 in the EU, closely followed by Italy with 46 per cent. • 47 per cent: Incidentally, the number of university students and post-graduates (aged 18-35) that would prefer to find work abroad, according to a survey by the Human Resources Management Agency of the Department of Marketing and Communication of the Athens University of Economics and Business. Seventy-three per cent of the 5,208 millenials asked would prefer to work in the private sector. • 6 per cent: The projected unemployment rate in Greece, according to a recent report by the IMF. In the year 2060 that is. Today it stands at a proud 23.4 per cent. • 44.1 per cent: The percentage of the electorate that didn't vote in the latest general elections one year ago. In 2007 it was 25.85 per cent. • 35.4 per cent: The projected percentage of the Greek workforce that will be working part-time in the year 2020. No need for despair, it's only 35.17 per cent now. • 21.3 per cent: The rise in unpaid various forms of taxes for the first seven months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. Arrears for Jan-July 2016 are at €7.6 billion (A$11.35b), while debt sustained from previous years rose to €90,43b (A$134.9b). A total of €56b (A$84.3b) is the total private debt accumulated during the past five years alone, while 4,128,962 individuals and legal entities currently owe to the Greek state. • 76.9 per cent: The disapproval ratings of Prime Minister Tsipras' administration, as per two recent polls. New Democracy, the major opposition party, isn’t faring much better, with disapproval ratings at 68.8 per cent. • 79.9 per cent: The percentage of income that goes to the state, via taxes and social security payments for a small business owner with an €80,000 reported income. Not counting ENFIA. • 0.9 per cent: The reduction in public sector workers in Greece for the first half of 2016, compared to the same period in 2013. The current − documented − public sector workforce stands at 564,015. • 40 per cent of employed Greeks are worried about their job security, according to a survey conducted by Nielsen for the second trimester of 2016, the highest number in the EU. Eighty-two per cent believe that 2017 will be another year of recession, despite multiple international reports (and government assurances) projecting a return to growth for the following year. Sources from the Bank of Greece even project that in 2017 the country will see a 2.5 per cent GDP growth rate. But we've heard that before. There are some numbers, though, that offer some glimmer of hope. According to the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, arrivals at Greek airports for the first eight months of 2016 showed a 8.1 per cent spike from the same period in 2015, with 37.368.155 total check-ins. In August, the busiest summer month, arrivals were up 6.5 per cent from last year. The return of 'fresh', not subject to capital controls restrictions, money to the Greek banks as deposits for the month of August is up 3.8 per cent since April, with €4.6b (A$6.9b) returning to the banks since the end of May. The same sources suggest that “the crisis is not over. Not yet. But we will leave it behind, if we act smart”. Let's see if that holds true, because acting smart is not exactly our strongest suit.
17 September 2016
1 October 2016