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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 February 2018
6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The great Greek property sell-off A confluence of economic depression, taxes and debt has created conditions for a massive sell-off of Greek real estate A new study confirms suspicions that taxation and debt are prompting Greeks to sell off property they spent previous generations amassing. Property ownership has fallen for the first time in decades, and half of all Greeks don't think it's worth buying property any more. The likely result: a massive sell-off to overseas buyers. The latest study by the Hellenic Property Federation has found that: - Ownership has fallen by 7.7 per cent during Greece's 10-year economic crisis, to 74 per cent - Forty-two per cent of Greeks would rather buy, versus 49 per cent who'd rather rent - Three-quarters of landlords have lowered rents during the crisis, yet half of all renters remain in arrears with payments - One third of owners plan to sell in the next two years, three times the pre-crisis figure - Three-quarters of owners find crisis-era austerity taxes on property unfair. The real estate market has suffered a series of blows since the beginning of the Greek debt crisis in 2008: 1. ENFIA, a single property tax was introduced in 2011 to offset falling income tax revenues. It is meant to raise €2.65bn a year, but often raises more. Property-rich but cash-poor Greeks have been forced to sell properties at bargain rates to raise money to pay the tax. 2. As unemployment rose to a high of 28 per cent in 2013, rented residential and business properties were left vacant. The combination of the economic depression and property tax meant that ownership became a liability rather than an asset. Many properties went up for sale, flooding the market and further depressing prices. 3. The depression also cre- ated a rise in non-performing loans, many of them mortgages. These now stand at just €105.2bn, or 60 per cent of GDP, according to Bank of Greece figures. The banking system plans to reduce these by €40.2bn by the end of 2019. Much of this – €11.5bn – will come from liquidations, meaning a dumping of loan collateral on the real estate market this year and next. A further €7.4bn will come from sales to debt collectors, likely leading to further foreclosures. The government has, at the behest of the Eurozone and International Monetary Fund, taken property auctions out of physical courts and put them online in its 15 January Omnibus Bill, where no amount of protests can delay or stop them. 4. The short-term rental plat- form Airbnb gave Greek owners temporary relief. These rentals have, until now, been essentially tax-free, offer- ing a lifeline to owners who have been able to reschedule mortgages and keep up with payments for the first time in years. But the Independent Public Revenue Authority (AADE) is now launching a platform for such rentals to be registered and taxed by as much as 45 per cent. The expected tax income is €57mn. Airbnb income averaged AUD$3,580 per registered Greek property last year, the company says. The combined pressures – property tax, inability to find paying renters, the commencement of foreclosures in earnest and the closure of tax loopholes – mean that a slate of Greek property will come on the market this year and next. According to Bank of Greece data, residential property prices fell by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2016. Whether this round of selling further depresses them remains to be seen. Greek parents more consumed by social media than their children, study finds Parents use social media networks 60 per cent more than their children A new study by the Greek Internet Security Center has revealed that parents in Greece spend more time on social media than their children. "Parents use social net- works at a rate of 60 per cent, higher than the percentage of their children," revealed George Kormas from the Greek Safer Internet Center during a radio in- terview. He said the number was "shocking", given that parents were meant to be role models for their young children at a crucial time in their development. The study results were among a number of interesting findings on internet use in Greece, and were shared on Safer Internet Day observed on 6 February. Mr Kormas also noted that one in three calls made to the centre's helpline last year was regarding issues surrounding internet dependence, which is the biggest issue surrounding internet use in Greece. Online bullying was the motivation behind 20 per cent of calls. Mr Kormas said that what concerned them was that a number of children under the age of 16 were using social networks. "We see that parents using the Internet let their children under the age of 13 to log in to social networks at a rate of 53 per cent - a huge percentage," said Mr Kormas. "We must be involved in a lifelong learning process so we can perceive changes, challenges and risks, as the internet is evolving." New identity cards to be issued by Greece The ID is said to be more secure, meeting higher international security standards Greek authorities are closer to actualising the upgrade to citizen's identity cards, ensuring they meet international security standards. There have been talks of an upgrade for years, with Greece having been required as a European Union memberstate to overhaul its outdated system since 2000. The current ID cards would need to be replaced with new ones featuring biometric data on a microchip. The country's failure to do so thus far has proven to be an issue of concern abroad, namely for Washington. With Greek nationals using the US' visa waiver program (VWP), which grants Greeks entry without a visa, officials are concerned that the current ID card can easily be forged. Washington had given Ath- ens until April 2017 to upgrade the IDs or face being excluded from the program. With a visit scheduled this month to the Greek capital by a delegation from the US Department of Homeland Security to look into the extent of Greece's enforcement of the VWP, it seems to have pushed authorities to seriously pursue the upgrade, reports Kathimerini. In doing so, a tender is expected to be announced and for government officials to launch talks with representatives from select companies that are interested in producing the ID cards. With the financial crisis Greece has been experiencing, it's no surprise it has failed to upgrade the identity cards, with the estimate cost expected to be €80 million. Greek government alleges officials tied to pharmaceutical bribery scandal The affair allegedly involving 10 senior politicians from the previous administration and Swiss drugmaker Novartis has been dubbed ‘the biggest scandal since the creation of the modern Greek state’ New evidence has seen a number of senior Greek politicians from the former administration come under fire regarding their alleged involvement in a bribery case involving Swiss drug firm Novartis, amid accusations the company made illegal payments to fix prices and increase market access. Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis said the documents would be forwarded to parliament on Tuesday. The investigation covering alleged bribery between 2006 and 2015 has named 10 politicians - eight former ministers and two ex-premiers - who have allegedly been shown to have been involved in the case. Minister Kontonis' deputy going as far as to describe the allegations as "the biggest scandal since the creation of the modern Greek state". "When we are talking about scandals that involve medicine, the moral implications are enormous," Minister Kontonis said. "At a time of financial crisis and recession, when it's difficult for our poorer fellow citizens to find the drugs they need for their health, there were certain drug makers who, in an illegal and provocative way, worked to provide drugs at inflated prices and used state officials in the National Health Service to make sure certain drugs available where they should not have been." Prosecutors are looking to investigate eight former ministers, along with the head of the 2012 caretaker government Panayiotis Pikrammenos and former prime minister Antonis Samaras, reports Kathimerini. A number of officials have issued statements to distance themselves from the matter, denying any involvement, including Samaras himself. While politicians' parliamentary immunity protects them from being prosecuted, they are liable for money-laundering offences. Meanwhile, the US’ FBI has confirmed that the Acropolis publisher Panagiotis Mavrikos, who died when his Porsche caught fire, was murdered. On 9 June 2016, Mavrikos' charred body was found in his jeep on the driver's seat. The fire started within, and mainly affected, the driver's seat, which at the time Greek police found suspicious. According to the FBI report released on Wednesday there was foul play. Mavrikos was the link between politicians and Novartis, involved in cases of money laundering and extortion, allegedly killed just before he was scheduled to testify on the ongoing Novartis investigation.
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