Thursday, January 10, 2013

11-year old has found solution for Greece!

In October 2011, the Ekathimerini published the following letter: 

"Dear Mr Papandreou, 

My name is Theodore Vasilopoulos. I am 11 years old and I live in Athens.

I am writing to you because I have found a solution to Greece’s debt crisis. The government could build a factory that converts solar energy, wind power and waterpower to electrical energy.

Please try to convince countries that we owe money to and ask them if we could pay our debt in energy. It might take a while, but if we have that factory, we might become the most resource-rich nation in the world.

I have listed the advantages of implementing my proposal in point form below.

1) We would be able to pay back our debt for free.

2) We wouldn’t have to buy raw materials from other countries to produce energy (for example coal and petrol).

3) We would get the energy for free.

4) When we pay back the debt, we could continue supplying countries with our alternative energy, making a profit.

5) If the countries appreciate the work we have done, we might be able to stay in the euro.

I hope you seriously consider my proposal. Looking forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Theodore Vasilopoulos"

Theodore Vasilopoulos will soon be two years older but he will sadly have to recognize that there is still no economic development plan for the Greek economy.

It is simply not understandable why no one in Greece (be that the government, the academia, the media, etc.) is coming up at least with a proposal for an economic development plan. A proposal which could serve as the basis for debate. I have made an appeal to Greek brain power once before and I repeat it again here!

Those who think Theodore's plan won’t work should come up with a better plan; and again with a better plan. And if Greek brainpower gets its act together, there would probably be a fairly decent plan within weeks. 

But for heaven’s sake, don’t leave the planning up to 11-year olds!


  1. ...why [is] no one in Greece, be that the government, the academia, the media, etc... coming up at least with a proposal for an economic development plan

    In modern democracies the parties in power don't have the long term planning capacity, also the parties in opposition will, by definition, oppose any government proposal - e.g. ND and the MoU. And its not just in Greece, the US is not much better. It seems to me that western democracies are becoming less stable. Many countries e.g. Greece, UK, Australia, Netherlands, etc have awkward coalitions that probably won't last long enough to implement any long term initiatives.

    In Laissez-faire Market economies there fewer levers a government can pull than in a Mercantile Economy such as Germany or Japan, and even fewer than in a Socialist Market Economy such as China. Of course Greece's economic model is none of these things, I don't think it conforms to any coherent economic theory - other than the "Every Man For Himself" doctrine.

    Academia cannot actually do anything. Their contributions are only of value if they make sense to those that can do some something - individuals, business and government.

    I was surprised that 'commercial sector' was explicitly absent from your list. I would like to hear/see more of their ideas, first from the equivalent of institutions such as Britain's CBI or Germany's Ifo.

    Do they exist? Do they have anything beyond fluffy "Greece is Great" websites. Do they publish anything containing concrete proposals? They don't appear to get much media coverage compared with the CBI, Ifo etc. However, I'm pleased to report that there is at least one such institution!

    I found this yesterday on the Konrad Adenauer Institute site in Munich, its from the The Foundation For Economic & Industrial Research in Athens - [url=]The Greek Economy under Reform: A Sisyphean task or a victorious way to Ithaka?[/url]

    Until yesterday I'd not been consciously aware of the IOBE, if you have a look around their site you'll find all sorts of interesting stuff - like their EQUAL proposal/project.

    The Business section of eKathimerini, does use the IOBE as a source. But they never provide a link or even the title of the publication they are quoting. In one recent item on shipping potential they reduced a PDF of 8 A4 pages to 43 ultra-bland words - it didn't even make me ask - who are the IOBE!

    I've stumbled on a couple of fleshed out ideas from specific businesses. Here's one I found in September last year from Pharmaserve-Lilly Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement in Greece - The proposal was posted in June last year - since when its had 909 views and 0 comments.

    It would better if the media (Greek & Foreign) not be seen as a primary source for ideas. Better that they be an unbiased, non-partisan vehicle in which others can express their ideas - preferably with attribution. IMO the Greek Media is pathetic at best, and criminally negligent much of the time.

    And much of the foreign media isn't a lot better, particularly the British media and especially the BBC World Service which IMO has reached its Use By Date.


    1. Dear CK,

      There is a fundamental difference between the mentioned countries, which have a political system that creates a kind of unstability, a not so strong policy because of the democratic system: in the Netherlands every 4 years elections decide who will govern the next period. That can (meant as "maybe") create a loss of the work of the politicians of the former cabinet. That could be organized better, but with all the hectic around the euro and Europe this has to wait. It is crisis, also behind the doors of a government.

      What is the fundamental difference between the countries you mention and Greece is that though Geece has democratic elections the political party that won gets all the "seats" to govern. That is not democratic because they are not controlled, checked. They are sovereign.
      Now, for the first time, because of the extreme dangerous situation, three parties are together in one government.

      Another fundamental difference is that the structure in the Netherlands is different from Greece. There IS a structure in the Netherlands. There are rules to be followed up. And controlled. There is knowledge.

      A very important detail here is that it is clear since yesterday that in Greece even a professor does not know enough about how it works with "data".
      The discussions on the GreekTV about Lagarde, "the USB stick", about how all the information works, and all the details and needed information can be found, so that it is clear when changes have happened, how, and when, exactly.... even the professor yesterday in a TV program did not know how it really works, obviously, because the Greek computer expert here where they are wrong in thinking and explaining, and how it really works in "data".
      IF this man was really a professor on the university, HOW is it possible that he teaches the students computer science? How can they work with "data" later as it should? They cannot. Impossible.
      How can Greece "work" as a system when their computers are used by people who do not understand "a shit" (as the Greek here uses to say) about computers and USB's?
      All is possible in the world with computers, but computers do NOT work when the "data" in the mind of the USER are corrupted.

      The media in Greece only talk, and do not do any research to create another talk-show today, with different information than yesterday.

      The Greek here: "I would not be surprised that they drink coffee all day long, and five minutes before the program starts they start thinking where to talk about today."
      All, all what is on TV, is a daily repeating of what was there yesterday, and before yesterday, and so on.
      Important debates are there in the middle of the night. When all Greeks need to sleep to work the day after.

      The Greek media do not realize that their programs are watched also abroad. That there are Greeks there who follow, and get angry. Greeks abroad are Greeks also and I can guarantee you that they get sick of the situation. Desparate. A heart-attack would not be strange anymore.
      I am really scared sometimes. So much tears could be shed because of all the dirt the Greek media present.

      How can a country change when the media are "working" with people who do NOT know where to talk about really?

      I repeat it again:
      There will be a time that the Greek media will be accused for brainwashing the Greeks with dead emptiness, information what exists just of words, empty words. completely meaningless, not rational, not intelligent. Difficult words to impress the Greeks, in sentences that create a labyrinth which people get lost. And even professors do not know where they are talking about. A "simple" Greek/Norwegian data expert knows more than a Greek professor. This is a bad sign.

    2. Thanks for the 'Ithaka-presentation'. Very interesting! As is IOBE's site.

    3. Now I remember. When Stournaras became FM, there was much reference to his having been CEO of IOBE before. I was greatly surprised to hear that Greece had such a think tank and then checked out their site for the first time.

    4. I have to add my "oops" here also.
      But only the word, because there are too many places in my already too long story where I have written so quickly, that important words are missing, creating confusing sentences...
      Next time I will take more time to read it over and correct before using the button "publish". Unless I am too excited again, so I cannot promise.

    5. CK, do you have a Twitter account? You could tweet your comments. They are good.
      I would like to follow and retweet.

    6. Sorry Antoinette I don't use twitter, to tell you the truth I don't 'get' social media. Nor do I watch TV, I threw it out after Beslan.

      I wasn't comparing the quality of the UK, Ned, Aus & Greek govt's, just their current configurations.

      I still find it hard to believe that the UK has a formal Conservative/LibDem Coalition, the first coalition gov't since WW2. It will be the death of the LibDems - they should have just offered supply & confidence to a minority Conservative government.

      Aus has its first minority govt since before WW2, it's a Labor minority. I must say though that given it's precarious state, it's getting a surprising amount done. I think it's because it expects to lose the next election, so its going for broke and depending on which side you like your bread buttered - it's leaving a legacy, or a big mess.

      Aus is an example of just how powerless governments can be. In recent times the AU$ has gone from US$0.75¢ to US$1.05, this makes imports cheaper which hurts local manufacturing industry and strangles value-add exports, and it makes exports like tourism and education dearer which has almost killed those sectors. And it seems there is nothing the government or central bank can do about it - when the central bank cuts official interest rates the AU$ goes up - which is bizarre. But at least it has an interest rate to cut, unlike the most of the developed world who are 'spaced out' on ZIRP & QE.

      With the Netherlands I was thinking of Labor & Geert Wilders party being in government together, I would not have thought they would make comfortable bedfellows. I realise that Wilders' party is not in the current government - but my understanding is that the last election had to be called early because Wilders' party pulled out of the coalition gov't.


    7. "With the Netherlands I was thinking of Labor & Geert Wilders party being in government together, I would not have thought they would make comfortable bedfellows. I realise that Wilders' party is not in the current government - but my understanding is that the last election had to be called early because Wilders' party pulled out of the coalition gov't."

      Wilders is not beloved in the Netherlands, but some are in an awe for him.
      Democracy creates situations as they have been there and it is so excellent that all know now that it is impossible to cooperate with them.
      This is the way of insight, and creates changes.
      The Wilders followers have seen him and heard him together with the others, have been in a passive way in the discussions, debates, and have learned. They lost followers. But it is very difficult to balance all the different directions in politics. There are many political parties in the Netherlands, and all, small or big, have a voice.
      The brainwork in parliament is wonderful.
      They sharpen each other and the one who is leading those debates is brilliant. In a short time all is there. They work. It works. Also on the streets. Netherlands is one big machine of beautiful energies. Even what we say that is bad is there (tolerance), and works in a way that it has a good effect on that what is right.

      Thank you for answering, for this debate. :)

    8. Stournaras and IOBE were frequently quoted in Swedish newspapers during 2010-2011. So I was gladly surprised when I heard he would be the next finance minister of Greece.

    9. While in general agreement with the comments about the complexity of the socioeconomic situation in Greece (and/or global, perhaps), may I just interject that Computer Science is not the study of all things computer - those most knowledgeable about the issue are digital forensics experts, and not those that spout ridiculous nonsense about it in the media.

  2. Given the abilities of the Greek government - are you so sure an 11 year old couldn't do better? At least the young fellow has grit, which few government types have.

    1. Do you have a Twitter account? It is nice to tweet this, as a reply to Kastner's tweet yesterday, about this boy. @kleingut
      Mine: @multerland
      It is important to retweet, or reply, to support Griechenland-Greece.
      Don't you agree?
      Let me know...

  3. Mr. Kastner, there is no development plan in Greece because of the simple fact that we still have ND and PASOK in power. Please note that since 1974 neither party has come up, even once, with a development plan, and it is safe to conclude that none of the politicians in these two parties have that competence. Meanwhile I also believe, with the writing so strongly on the wall considering their future, that beyond what they can pocket from privatisations now in the short term, they have no interest in making a real development plan.

    Meanwhile Mr. Stournaras is up to his ears with the bigger budget and EU / Troika picture and has no time.

    It is important to remember that 'elite' parties in Greece - ND and today's PASOK - are not stocked with the best and brightest. The financially elite families in Greece traditionally places the least clever of their children in politics, ie the ones deemed incompetent to run the family business - either from lack of brains or because of character problems.

    As for the IT professor who doesn't know about memory sticks....he is obviously a party man saying what has to be said to support the government's case; no doubt he also received his professorship through the same party channels. Please wake up and stop being so naive about the pitiful ways of greek 'power'! You can take for granted that nobody in a position of power here academically, judicially, etc. is the best in their field in Greece. All these positions have long been the 'prizes' of the top parties to disburse among its most loyal members.

    Meanwhile Tina Birbili, an engineer in her 30s, and Minister of the Environment under the last PASOK government, who oversaw various university planning boondoggles to PASOK professors, is today representing Greece, in its moment of greatest crisis outside war, at the OECD. Need I say more?

    Of course there are competent IT people here! They are in the private sector! Greek companies have been working for the EU for years and internationally.

    1. "As for the IT professor who doesn't know about memory sticks....he is obviously a party man saying what has to be said to support the government's case; no doubt he also received his professorship through the same party channels."

      IF this is true: how many professors are corrupted? How many are there and not belonging where they are now? Poisoning Greece with their split tongue?
      How can it be cleaned?
      How is it possible to trust? Even the woman you mention: when I saw her I had my doubts. My intuition told me that she is too young to understand politics as it should be. Nice to be young, but it takes ages to have the wisdom to be a wonderful and trustful politician.

      Give me a working formula to know when I can trust a Greek or not.

      Again about that USB stick: IF it is so rotten as you declare here about professors, the media, then all is even more rotten than I could ever imagine in my most dark thoughts. It is impossible for me to accept that this is really true.

      Prove it. Please.

    2. Tina Birbili, who is a physicist & environmental economist, is 42. That's only 3 years younger than Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem who is tipped to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker as the Eurogroup czar. Dijsselbloem is also an engineer (agricultural), but unlike Ms Birbili he doesn't have a PhD from Imperial College London or anywhere else.

      In early 2009 Obama appointed chemical engineer Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson had previously held a similar position in Jon Corzine's New Jersey admininistration, after which she replaced Bradley Abelow as Corzine's Chief of Staff.

      Corzine is an ex Goldman Sachs CEO, where Abelow was one of his reports. Corzine was a major contributor to the 2008 Obama campaign fund. After losing the NJ Governorship, Corzine went on to become the CEO of MF Global, taking Bradley Abelow with him as his deputy.

      In late 2011 soon after MF Global went bust, taking a lot of client money with it, Liza Jackson appointed Bradley Abelow as the Chairman of the EPA Financial Advisory Board.

      Corzine & Abelow have appeared before Congress in relation to the collapse of MF Global. Not a single congressman questioned Abelow's appointment at the EPA, and AFAIK he is still in that position as is Jackson of course.

      Corzine had to close the PAC he had running for the 2012 Obama campaign, he became a liability when he admitted he had no idea where all the client money went.

      So what's my point ?

      Unlike most politicians Tina Birbili did have appropriate qualifications for the Minister of the Environment job. Unlike her replacement, Giorgos Papakonstantinou - who has an LSE economics PhD, perhaps that's where he found out how to copy memory sticks.

      If I were a Greek then I would not be worrying about whatever Birbili is doing at the OECD - which is just another a think tank. I'd be much more concerned about having as the next Eurogroup czar, an agricultural engineer with no ministerial experience prior to becoming the Netherlands Finance Minister in November 2012!!

      If you think Greece is bad in respect of jobs for mates, take a look at the Obama administration, or the one before that (G.W Bush) or the one before that (Clinton)...

      I'll stay out of the memory stick/IT Professor debate; except to say that most IT professors and professionals (of which I am one, of 40 years standing) wouldn't have a clue how to definitively determine when a memory stick was formatted or copied. The people who may know will be found in military intelligence or similar.

      Yes Greece is 'bad', but maybe not as bad as we sometimes think. Does any other EU country have a long term economic development plan, the only countries I can think of that might, are Poland and Estonia? Cameron commissioned Michael Heseltine (a Europhile and eventually Thatcher's bête noire) to produce one, which he did. It calls for decentralisation and 'more Europe' so it is unlikely to be adopted. Britain has spent the last 150 years centralising and 'more Europe' is blasphemy for many (most ?) Brit's :lol:

      The main thing the Greek government must do is to create an investment friendly environment (like Ireland did before it went on its property binge) and keep its fingers crossed - and not go on a property binge.


    3. I am 64, and all who are younger than me are young in my eyes. I have children with an age around 40, adults, but with problems (as all have) where I have gone through when I had that age. I have learned that it takes as many years as needed to know what you know when you are older, and nobody can step over years. Nobody.
      Old is out nowadays and therefore you hardly see older people working. Wisdom belongs to an older age however. (Kastner proves it.) Maybe that is why so much goes wrong in a world without the wisdom and know-how of the older people?

      Sometimes there are wonderful young presidents. Yes. It amazes me that Obama has not been killed already because this is what the "world" does: just kill those who are better than normal. Or just make a scapegoat out of them, as they do in Greece with Papandreou. Easy. Cheap. "Cheapgoats" themselves.

      Why do you compare the Netherlands all the time with Greece? Don't do that. Not any country works perfect, but I know that the "young" AND "older" politicians in the Netherlands are under a constant control of all and everybody. Nothing is hidden there. Nothing. Nobody goes around with secrets. They work, with ethics that have been forgotten by too many politicians elsewhere. Or worse: that have not even been discovered elsewhere.

      The problems in Greece are huge, much more complicated than in any other country. I never liked Samaras but he is doing a good job now because he has expertise, he has an iron inbeing. He is not that young anymore, and he shows that he is the right man on the right place now.
      Whatever his past might be. It is "war" now and Greece needs a general.

      Tina Birbili can maybe do a good job on a more silent spot. Not within the activities of the political stage with the word "crisis" in the eyes of all who are on the battle front. You need to have balls for that. Women can have that also, but then they have to be like Angela Merkel. Not beloved everywhere, but that does not mean that those who do not like her are right.

      About the USB stick and the "professional" here in the Greek house: he is working anonymous on an internet-forum with heavy computer problems. People think he is from Microsoft. He has even been asked to be in a forum of a university in USA, gets the special magazine for it.
      So, it is not just a "simple" one but what he can find out should be in the skills of a university professor in Greece as well, and not only there, everywhere.

      Do you have family in Greece? If, and you can say that it is not so bad there then your family belongs to the exceptions.

      It is more worse than you would like to make me believe. But that there are possibilities there that are not bad at all: I believe Kastner's insight in this.

  4. Canutely King, I agree with you about the investment plan.

    I also have no problem with people being young if they are competent. But it is unwise to assume that further degrees describe competence - I say this as a University professor (in Spain, Belgium and before that in the UK, Germany and NL) who sits on the marking board every year, passing students extremely mediocre work, (most students are mediocre) especially at PHD level, because they tick all the correct boxes. Degrees don't guarantee anything - it is what you do after.

    Tina Birbili is known amongst professionals in GR as having landed a very plush, ie wildly overpaid, commission to design bicycle paths at the extremely large main university campus which is off-limits to cars anyway. This was a PASOK appointment and later she received much media attention for her 'green' intervention. I invite you to visit the campus to view these paths. Basically you will wonder where they are. Or even the need, since the campus is criss-crossed with decommissioned roads and is basically one big 'path' and largely empty forest area.

    I do question the appointment of an engineer to an economic think tank. Especially now.
    There are plenty of highly experienced economists in Greece with far better credentials for this post, and the appropriate skill set (statistics etc.) - who are presently jobless! Unfortunately for them, they have spent their lives in economics rather than party politics.

    Greece is a small country and so top appointments in all public sector fields are infiltrated by politics. In my view too much, even tragically so. This is not to say all appointments are inappropriate, but that it is political pot luck. For example, Greece's greatest living architect, by staying out of politics, has only been given occasional temporary junior posts as a tutor of the lowest rank at the polytechnic of Athens.

    However I saw the same and even worse, especially in Belgium. And as you say, all administrations appoint their friends.

    In the greek universities this has unfortunately led to lower standards. In the greek hospitals it is different, though departments with corrupt heads tend to be demoralised.

    Basically the private sector is where the hope for Greece lies. Our country is NOT rotten from top to bottom, it is only rotten where it meets the state sector.

  5. To continue...
    The best of greek talent and brains is in the private sector.

    For example, Greece until 3 years ago was rated no.5 worldwide in terms of the quality of its doctors, healthcare and access to health care. At least half of greek doctors train abroad in the highest levels of medical education, most privately, or through Onassis scholarships or armed forces funds.

    Unfortunately the private sector is the sector of greatest frustration, since any kind of work that could benefit Greece as a whole comes up against the political favours/ kickbacks system and usually fails or is bastardised. This certainly applies to all professions in the engineering and construction sector and science.

    However great strides can be made at the local level, such as when the port of Mytilini installed the newest and greenest sewage disposal system in the late 90s and won a European award. Or when a small town near Veria in northern Greece backed the vision of its trained librarian and has produced probably the most educative, much loved and inspiring library in Europe!

    Meanwhile Greece is at the forefront in Europe with alternative medicines and cosmetics, herbal knowledge and medicines, herbs and food products, organic farming and agricultural tourism, pilates, yoga, tai chi centres, green building knowledge...please note, once again, all businesses that can be kept small & private, flying under the government radar.

    The easiset area to succeed in is Import / Export and exporting services. This on the whole can avoid government interference, provided the company stays small! If it grows it starts attracting the attention of government parasites who act more or less like mafiosi 'protection services". To succeed in Greece you must be small - or grow so big you can hire a self-protection department to deal solely with government ministries!

    By feeding on the private sector, feeding on its own state commissions in the form of kickbacks, feeding off the money from all the bureaucratic payments & paperwork put in the way of private sector business, feeding on EU business commissions (famously Siemens and defence contracts), the governments of the last 35 years have been so sated with illegal wealth that it actually didn't matter to them that they sacrificed Greece's shipping industry - no. 1 in the world and Greece's number one sector - which simply moved its companies out of Greece.

    As for large scale investors from outside, most have given up and gone away millions poorer and after 5-7 years, since successive governments quarrel between themselves on who gets the illegal spoils. The same reason applies to Eurpean investment funds (highways etc) which were infinitely delayed on take-up because of inner kickback fighting. The money was allocated for the Athens metro 25 years before work began! (See Siemens scandals, then .....and now in 2012, when following the decision of the german court that Siemens pay Greece fines of x billion €, Venizelos in the first act of the present government awarded Siemens the contract for the next 2 metro extensions exactly equal to this fine. This was awarded in a contract competition of one aspirant. Which no doubt is a german-pleasing EU move, but according to the EU's own competition rules is illegal).

    Finally, Greece has numerous Chambers of Commerce and private sector business chambers and committees. But their hands are tied and they are forced to avoid mentioning the elephant in the room for libel reasons and their own survival!

    In sum, their is enormous competency, far-sightedness and energy in the private sector here. But the way forward is always blocked. Greece is much blessed, and not a poor country by any means, and there is no reason, given good governance, it could not be the Switzerland of the mediterranean.