Some time ago I read that the problem with the Greeks is that they regard paying their taxes in rather the same way as many people regard the collection plate at church: you put on what, if anything, you happen to feel like at the moment.
When I repeated this to a young Greek student he responded, rather indignantly, that "ordinary " Greeks, such as his family, do pay their taxes: it is the wealthy Greeks who evade and avoid their obligations.
Confirmation of this view comes in a letter to the Guardian last Friday (04/11/11) from a Professor Greg Philo of Glasgow University. He points out that "...the $43bn funding gap of Greece's government is matched by about the same amount going offshore..."
Professor Philo goes on to quote the head of Italy's biggest bank as saying that "Italy's $2,750bn debt could be resolved by a tax on Italy's private wealth. This is five times the size of its debt."
(The difference in scale of the Greek and Italian public debts is worth noting.
Incidentally, a graphic in yesterday's Guardian gave the following figures of the debt to GDP ratios of selected countries as:
Germany, 83.2% (sic);
When will we realise that we are being taken for a ride by the Tory claim that the UK's public debt is so outlandish that immediate public austerity is unavoidable. This is a Con/con tick to justify the implementation of the Tory ideology of shrinking the state. Wake up, Liberal Democrats in government.)
Later in his letter Professor Philo suggests a "wealth tax" on the richest 10% as an immediate solution to governments' financial problems. I warmly support this and, although I am nowhere near being one of the "richest 10%", should have no objection to its applying to me. In the longer term governments, including ours, need to close tax loopholes, abolish tax havens and pursue avoiders and evaders with the same vigour and enthusiasm that our government currently applies to so called "benefits cheats."
In short, there is no financial problem, just a failure in fairness and a lack of political will to ensure that we really are "all in this together."