Greece is considering privatizing state assets to chip away at a debt mountain that brought it close to bankruptcy, with the prime minister and his cabinet also looking for ways to boost competitiveness at a meeting Wednesday.
Faced with a bloated budget deficit and massive public debt, the center-left government has cut pensions and salaries, raised consumer taxes and declared war on tax evasion. Many of the harsh austerity measures were taken in order to unlock a 110 billion euro ($134 billion) rescue package of loans from other countries that use the euro and the International Monetary Fund.
The government has emphasized its crackdown on rampant tax evasion, with the finance ministry saying late Tuesday it had started a broad investigation of tax and customs officials after receiving a string of complaints over alleged bribery, forgery and smuggling.
The ministry said it had even located 234 finance ministry employees who failed to file income tax declarations in 2007 and 2008, and another 70 tax employees who appeared to own property whose value was far in excess of what they could reasonably be expected to have based on their income.
The 70 employees owned property with values ranging from 800,000 euros to 3 million euros ($978,000 to $3.67 million) while declaring annual incomes averaging just 50,830 euros ($62,129.51), the ministry said, adding that it was investigating how the employees obtained the property.
Twenty directors of tax offices across Greece were being replaced for failing to meet tax collection targets, while another 70 employees were being relocated.
Tax offices are widely viewed as being one of the most corrupt sectors in Greece, along with private doctors and dentists, who frequently fail to issue receipts and therefore declare their full income.
Authorities have begun publishing the names of alleged high-profile tax cheats, most recently issuing the names of 57 doctors or private medical centers accused of various tax violations. They are also seeking to catch tax evaders by using satellite photos to spot undeclared swimming pools — an indicator of taxable wealth.
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