For starters, I like Christine Lagarde and have a lot of respect for her. Unlike her fellow G8 financial ministers, she was brutally honest when it came to the banking crisis. Lagarde criticized when the others all changed the subject. Appointing her to the IMF following the Strauss-Kahn fiasco was a good move.
Her latest interview with The Guardian though is troubling for me and while she's not completely wrong, there's a lot more to the problem in Greece than just paying taxes. I would imagine Lagarde is also critical of the bankers receiving a pretty good deal on the bailout considering they have a lot to do with the crisis, but I'd like to hear that point restated. The banks need to appreciate that they can't continue clobbering everyone and always getting the best deal for their self made problems.
Also, the Greek government deserves plenty of blame. My former roommate and colleague had to return to Greece for his military service and then decided to try and re-settle in Greece after nearly 10 years in the US. He grew frustrated with the basic corruption at all levels of the system.
You want a phone installed? Bribe someone or wait many months. You want to pay your taxes? Bribe the tax man to accept your tax documents, not even cheat. My friend Nikos couldn't believe how extensive it was and he hated it and eventually left again for the US because of it. Any time I repeated the problems to other Greek friends (who left for similar reasons) they all agreed that it was corrupt to the core. How many people really want to pay into such a system?
So yes, the people of Greece need to pay for the system but let's be honest about that system and it's problems before we take a stick and beat them over the head. Lagarde is one of the smartest out there and I hope that she comes around on this.
Asked whether she is able to block out of her mind the mothers unable to get access to midwives or patients unable to obtain life-saving drugs, Lagarde replies: "I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens."
Lagarde, predicting that the debt crisis has yet to run its course, adds: "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." She says she thinks "equally" about Greeks deprived of public services and Greek citizens not paying their tax.
"I think they should also help themselves collectively." Asked how, she replies: "By all paying their tax."