Thursday 30 September 2010

Letters from the Καφενείο

Yesterday I learned (from management sources) that a leading global firm with operations in Greece was audited here. The auditors showed up and requested that for the audit in northern Greece, the firm provide the audit team with 5* hotel accommodation, all room/dining expenses paid, a woman in every room at night, and a chauffered car from the hotel to “work”. The firm, which would have passed the audit anyway, but didn't want to get into a protracted legal and procedural battle, gave in to these demands, and passed the audit with flying colours. Yet another facet of business management that won’t make it into the HBR case studies.

Last week, the press reported that COSCO, the Chinese shipping/transport firm that privatised [part of] the port of Pireaus, was complaining about EUR 38 mln in unreturned VAT from the government. The press also reported that for the construction sector alone, there was EUR 1 bln in unpaid VAT. Other acquaintances report massive delays in both VAT as well as European subsidies for investments made. These investments have been audited and approved, but the EU money is nowhere to be found. I have to ask, with reports like this commonplace in local and international press, exactly how much credibility the Ministry of Finance’s revenue numbers have, and whether an official rebuttal or answer should be given by the government on this issue, given its interest in attracting more foreign investment.

Some years back I was drinking a Saturday late-morning beer (those were the days!) with a friend in Kolonaki. The friend, said half-approvingly: “To win this project, we paid the equivalent of 300 Mercedes S-600s.” That’s one for every member of Parliament. Just think of the savings Greece could have if we reduced the number of Parliamentarians from 300 to 200. Or to 150. Or just sub-contracted the job to Luxembourg.

Perhaps saddest of all was the news reported today in Kathimerini, that the Acropolis Museum restaurant was closing. This restaurant, despite some glitches in service, was a marvel, where you could get a cold espresso or a fresh juice for EUR 2.50, in the otherwise cut-throat tourist centre. Apparently the operation was being done using temporary staff, who’s contracts were no longer being renewed. Equally strange was the report that despite EUR 80,000 per month in revenue, the restaurant was not breaking even. Now that Mr. Samaras is no longer Minister of Culture, does this mean that the Museum might hire some employees who are not from Messinia? Whatever the provenance of its staff, expect higher prices. 

1 comment:

  1. Comments regarding Acropolis Museum on FB Page. Love the background photo of sails & since you're into sailing & jazz, have you seen 'Jazz on a Summer's Day', the Bert Stern (yes, fashion photographer) documentary film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival - concurrent with the America's Cup? It's downloadable.