Saturday, December 1, 2018

Where Oh Where Will This Stream of Consciousness Take Me?


A big howdy out there to all of you who read the English language. I guess could extend my greeting to those who don’t, but how would they know?

Yes, this is a steam of consciousness post, one that I don’t know where it shall lead me until I get there. The only thing I know for sure is that it shall not touch upon what’s happening in the US. If you’re looking for that sort of commentary, I suggest you pay a visit to your cable news network of choice and revel or revile to your heart’s content. 

With that constraint, the natural place for me to talk about is Greece. There is so much to write about, from a poor cleaning lady sentenced to 15 years in prison for falsely claiming she had a sixth-grade education as opposed to the five she’d actually completed (the public outcry seems to have prompted a re-examination of that judicial travesty), to the continuing horror of the refugee camps on the Northeastern Aegean islands, notably Lesvos aka Mytilini.

Truth is, though, blatant miscarriages of justice occur everywhere in the world, and only when exposed in the Press does anything happen. That cleaning lady’s ordeal is not unique to Greece. Nor is the plight of refugees. That said, I’ve strong feelings about the situation on Lesvos, but I’ve already expressed them in my most recent Andreas Kaldis book, An Aegean April, which I’m proud to say was selected this week by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2018.  Blush, blush.

photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
 So, what shall I talk about?  Reality?  There seems to be so little of it getting out these days.  Hmm, perhaps I should address a serious problem haunting Greece in its post bailout days, a situation finally getting some serious attention in the run-up to national elections in 2019.  The government is properly anxious to attract foreign investment, but that depends, among other things, on a healthy, functioning banking system.

The Governor of the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras, recently spoke at a meeting concerning the mountain of bad loans that make up 40 percent of the portfolio of the country’s four biggest banks.

Despite having been bailed out three times with 50 billion euros ($56.88 billion) from the proceeds of Greece’s three rescue packages, Greece’s banks are still wobbly. In part because many of their customers have endured repeated pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings, and can’t repay their mortgages, credit cards and loans.

Those same customers now face the potential loss of their homes, because the law under which a debtor’s main residence is protected will be abolished and cease to apply in January 2019.  The current government says it’s seeking ways to ensure that debtors in need of protection are not left without a safety net and that it is “aiming to present a solution soon.” The question is, will its aim hit the target in an election year?

What it might also try doing is collecting on the more than 250 million euros ($284.42 million) in unpaid loans obtained by members of the then ruling parties who’d passed a law granting immunity from prosecution to the loan officers who gave them their loans without sufficient collateral.

Let’s put it this way. It’s a mess that’s been around and unattended to for quite awhile.  In fact, Chief Inspector Kaldis addreses it in his tenth book, coming in April 2019.  Here’s what he has to say about it in The Mykonos Mob:

“A lot of people owe fortunes to the banks, but the savvy debtors know the banks won’t push to collect.  If they did, they’d have to report the defaulted loans to the EU as non-performing, and that would dramatically affect the banks’ financial health requirements. So, big debtors owing millions just ignore the banks and go on living as if debt-free.”

“If it’s that obvious, how do the banks get away with it?” asked Yianni.

Andreas smiled. “Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”  He stared at a bright white egret standing on the muddy edge of the reservoir.   “On top of that, you’ve got bank-loan portfolios filled with dead loans—ones where no one knows what’s owed, how to locate the debtors, or where to find written proof that there’s a loan at all.  Some of those portfolios have been sold off to foreign speculators who are in for a big surprise.”


Of course, that’s fiction…otherwise the electorate might be very aggravated…and investors could be spooked.  

I think that’s enough of a stream of consciousness for today. 


[PS.  Thanks to Ekathimerini and The National Herald for some of the facts, photos and even a few phrases.]


  1. Sounds like another winner ahead, Jeff. I can't wait to hear more about the egret!

  2. Thanks, Michael, and I’m not surprised you picked up on my little allegorical effort. I guess my little snow white egret in Greek mud could be said to be the equivalent of a canary in a South African mine.

  3. Will Greece EVER pull out of its nose-dive? The ground still seems to be rushing upward. Good stream of consciousness, Jeff. Thank heaven it's not yellow...