Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

Tortoise & Scorpion, Mīrzā Raḥīm, 1847

Crossing the forest a Scorpion found himself unable to cross fast flowing river. Frustrated, he began to walk upstream. After a short while, he came upon a Frog. As he raised his forked tail and prepared to sting, the Frog cried out “Please, don’t sting me! I’ll do anything.”

“Then, carry me across the river and I will spare your life.” the Scorpion replied.

The Frog, afraid of having a dangerous scorpion on his back, thought for a moment, ‘If he stings me while we cross, I will die from the poison and the Scorpion will drown.’ So he readily agreed to the bargain.

The Scorpion climbed on the Frog’s back and they started to make their way across the river. At the half-way point, the Frog felt a sharp pain in his back, and as he felt the poison course through his body and paralyze his muscles, he desperately asked the Scorpion “Why did you sting me? Now both of us will die.”

The Scorpion replied, “Because it’s my nature.”

The lesson for Greece: The Frog is future prosperity; the Scorpion is corruption and greed.

[music: Requiem – Mozart]

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My favourite Greek joke

Posted: June 5, 2012 in Greece

[music: For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver]

One day, God looked down at his creation and was happy. “I will reward Man today” he thought to himself.

The first place he visits is France. “Good morning” God said to a a Frenchman walking his dog “I have seen that Mankind has done good things today, and I would like to reward you. You have a wish.”

The Frenchman thought for a moment and replied, “Well my neighbour has this magnificent wine cellar, hundreds of bottles, very nice vintages. All of us in town are quite envious of this wine cellar.” The Frenchman looked God square in the eyes. “I would like a better wine cellar, more wine, better vintages.”

God made it so. The Frenchman was delighted when he saw thousands of bottles lining a magnificent cellar, vintages so rare that even the Baron Rothschild himself would not posses. “Now the whole town will be envious of my cellar” the Frenchman crowed.

Pleased with his work, God decided to visit Germany. He repeated his story to a middle aged German grilling wurst in his garden. “You have a wish.”

The German thought a few minutes, “My neighbour has this beautiful BMW, the whole neighbourhood listens to the powerful sound of this car’s engine, it is like music to our ears.” Turning his wursts, the German continued, “I would like a nicer car, with a bigger engine, more powerful, I want the whole town to notice me when I drive by.”

God made it so. When the German saw his new car, he left his wursts to burn. He squealed at the roar of the engine and it was so mighty that in the next town over they started to hum. “I am so happy” he said, squeezing God’s hand, “it is the most exquisite machine I have ever beheld.”

Pleased again with his work, God spotted a Greek island villager gathering wild grass for dinner. He repeated his story to the Greek. “You have a wish”

Without hesitation the Greek replied, “My neighbour has this beautiful goat, it produces liters and liters of delicious milk and they make a cheese that is known across the whole island. Some even ship it to Athens”.

God interrupts, “So you want a goat that produces more milk, even more delicious, whose cheese will be know across all of Greece?”

Indignant, the villager raised his arms and cried,”Of course not! I want to you to kill his goat.”

The Corinth Canal links the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. Completed in the late 19th Century, it was a mitigated engineering success and, tragically, a commercial failure. It’s now a tourist attraction with it’s hodgepodge collection of ill-suited souvlaki stands, fast food outlets, tourist shops, and abandoned buildings. Uncoordinated development of the area has turned a potentially interesting site into a five minute pit-stop: jump out of the car, cover your eyes until you reach the bridge, snap a few photos, dodge the cars while crossing the street and we’re on our way.

It’s as much a tourist failure today as it was a commercial failure a century ago.

Greece has some natural advantage: sun, sea water, coast-line, islands. But like any collection of assets, they need to be organized in order to produce something of value. These assets attract tourists, but they also create the condition for competitive advantage in solar power and water treatment.

Desalination technologies are desperately needed by the islands in Greece, however, closely knit local cabals prevent the economic incentives that would stimulate the necessary investments. Water boats, such as the Dimitra (picture below) supply islands with water that is pumped into local water systems or sold to individuals. Rumor has it that certain local individuals have a vested interest in keeping this antiquated system alive and actively work through the local councils to prevent newer and more efficient systems from being installed. This is the crux of the coordination problem in Greece, the economy is organized informally to benefit a few and harms the majority. It is not a zero sum game; the benefit to these powerful few is far smaller than what could be realized if the interests of society were taken into consideration.

3 June 2012, on the port of Hydra

With over 2,750 hours of sunshine annually, Greece is the perfect place to re-stock our depleted stores of vitamin D. It’s also an ideal place to install solar technologies. Instead, the local power company, aptly named DEI, seems to prefer less renewable sources of energy.

Creating the right economic incentives and conditions would be a tremendous benefit, however, the country could go further. With a population of 11 million inhabitants, local Universities and Technology Institutes cannot be leaders in research on all fronts; the country is simply too small to have the critical mass in terms of money and research talent. Focus is required, so why not expend energy on the few areas where Greece can both benefit locally and through the export of this knowledge: water, solar power, efficient water use for agriculture, and tourism.

Coordinated research funding and competitive investments would not only bring benefits to Greece through lower costs for water and energy resources, but would create the necessary conditions for competitive advantage from research, through development, to commercialization and exploitation of solar and water technologies.

Unfortunately, contemporary political discource  is full of populist sentiment but noticeably devoid of any vision for the future. The building of the Corinth Canal was the realization of a 2 thousand year old idea that held hope and promise. One cannot fault these early policy makers for lack of ambition and a vision for a prosperous future for their country. Today, Greece desperately needs a successful Corinth Canal.

[music: Shhh – Panthalassa – Miles Davis]