Ever since the ‘crisis’ began — incidentally, something that continues for years cannot correctly be called a crisis, but these days journalists and politicians use words as Humpty-Dumpty did — successive Greek governments have shown a quite remarkable ability to get hold of the wrong end of the stick, in fact very often the wrong stick. It often looks as if they’re simply taking the piss, or trying to raise the general level of hilarity and despair inside and outside the country.
You may remember that one of their first moves, when there were complaints that not enough tax was being collected, was to cut the salaries of the tax-collectors. Who of course then went on strike, so that rather than a little tax being collected, none at all was.
Now, ‘capital controls’ (as I think they are called) have been introduced. These are (said to be) designed to make sure that money stays in Greece rather than going abroad. One result of this is that if you try to order something through the internet, you are now asked not just for your card number, but also for your e-mail address, your date of birth, your tax registration number, your passport number, and your bank account number. BUT — and this is the real stroke of genius — this only applies if you are yourself within Greece, and ordering something from a company that is also in Greece; i.e. it only applies if there can be no question of the money’s leaving Greece. If you, from Greece, order something on the internet from a company outside Greece — so that your money will be leaving the country — all is exactly as it was before and is everywhere else. The new rules, that is to say, discourage buying and selling in Greece, and encourage people in Greece to send their money abroad. They do so with such neatness and ingenuity that one is forced to the conclusion they were carefully designed to sabotage the Greek economy.