For the past five years Greece, stuck in its worst depression in history with two-thirds of work eligible youths unemployed, has been actively blaming all of its problems on "(f)auxterity" even as we said all along that the Greek problems have nothing to do with how much money its government spends and everything to do with corrupt, complicit and frequently criminal politicians. Today we got the latest confirmation that we were correct after the Greek finance minister Stournaras asked for the resignation of the Greek privatisation agency chief, Stavridis, following a newspaper report that he traveled on the private plane of a businessman who just bought a state company with Stavridis' blessings.
Amusingly, this is the second privatisation agency head to roll in less than six months which perhaps explains why this particular aspect of the Greek "recovery" (recall privatisation was supposed to generate €50 billion in proceeds once upon a time toward paying back the Troika) is such a failure. But then again, since once can extend the underlying graft and corruption observed here to all other facets of Greek society (and not only Greek but every other insolvent peripheral European nation where it is every politician for himself), one can understand quite well why nothing is being done, why there are no actual reforms, and why as long as the ECB controls the bond market and gives the impression all is well, the plunder from the ordinary people will continue. For the simple reason that nothing has changed.
Of course, the pillage will continue only as long as there is still something to be pillaged. Which in the case of Greece is increasingly less.
Stelios Stavridis is the second head of HRADF to leave in less than six months, reigniting controversy around Greece's ailing privatisation programme which is a key part of its international bailout.
Delays and privatisation receipt shortfalls are a constant headache for the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which bankroll Greece's 240-billion-euro rescue.
The lenders said last month that they would review the way HRADF was operating, after it emerged that the agency would miss its 2013 revenue target by about 1 billion euros.
"Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras asked today for the resignation of HRADF chairman Stelios Stavridis," the finance ministry said in a brief statement.
A finance ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Stavridis's resignation was effective immediately. Stavridis was not immediately available for comment.
What happened was simple: Stavridis "negotiated" a deal allowing Greek billionaire Dimitirs "Tiger" Melissandis, who is listed on the Forbes 500 with a net worth of around $3 billion, and is the owner of Aegean Marine Petroleum, to buy a one-third stake in OPAP as co-owner of the Emma Delta consortium, on terms that were certainly preferential to Emma Delta, if perhaps not so much to the Greek people. The quid-pro-quo was a jaunt on the Tiger's private jet to his "holiday home."
The official said the dismissal followed a report in Proto Thema on Saturday that Stavridis travelled last week on the private plane of shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis, a major shareholder of a Greek-Czech consortium which in May agreed to buy a 33 percent stake in state gambling firm OPAP.
According to the newspaper report, he admitted he used Melissanidis's plane to travel to his holiday home.
"Melissanidis, who was travelling to France, offered to take me with him to accommodate me," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Stavridis took the flight immediately after the signing of an agreement to finalise the 652 million-euro OPAP deal, Proto Thema said.
HRADF chief executive Yannis Emiris told Reuters he was keeping his post and that Greece's ailing privatisation programme would not suffer from Stavridis's resignation.
"There will be absolutely no delays to the programme," he said, rejecting the idea that the OPAP deal might be reversed as a result of Stavridis's resignation.
The finance ministry official confirmed the OPAP deal would not be affected and the Stavridis's resignation was for "ethical reasons".
Stavridis's predecessor Takis Athanasopoulos stepped down after he was charged by a prosecutor with breach of duty over his former role as chairman of a state utility.
One can almost discern a pattern here. Then again, why ascribe to chronic corruption when scapegoating all problems to "(f)auxterity" will do just fine.