Ahead of Monday’s meeting of euro zone finance ministers, Greece has submitted its latest proposals for reform (paywall) to get money from the creditors that control its bailout. One proposal in particular jumps out: Hiring tourists to get wired up and spy on locals for tax avoidance.
The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, says that the “culture of tax avoidance runs deep within Greek society,” (pdf) and has expanded on a previous proposal to better collect taxes:
To this effect we propose the following: That large numbers of non-professional inspectors are hired on a strictly short-term, casual basis (no longer than two months, and without any prospect of being rehired) to pose, after some basic training, as customers, on behalf of the tax authorities, while ‘wired’ for sound and video.
We envisage that the recruits will come from all walks of life (e.g. students, housekeepers, even tourists in popular areas ripe with tax evasion) who will be paid hourly and who will be hard to detect by offending tax dodgers. The very ‘news’ that thousands of casual ‘onlookers’ are everywhere, bearing audio and video recording equipment on behalf of the tax authorities, has the capacity to shift attitudes very quickly.
Varoufakis even wants money from the rest of the euro zone to carry out its Stasi-esque policies. As one unnamed euro zone official told the Financial Times:
It’s quite hilarious, if it were not so tragic, that this is what a government in an industrialized country comes up with.
Spying—and using foreigners to do it—should go down well with voters in a country suffering from record unemployment that has lost a quarter of its economy. They elected Varoufakis’s party in the first place to end this kind of humiliation.
Varoufakis hasn’t been doing very well since he was elected as part of a new government vowing to end the austerity that has come with Greece’s bailout. He hardly won any concessions from the country’s creditors in the rest of the euro zone (as Quartz predicted)—the much-loathed bailout continues as before with the same people in charge.
So much for game theory.