Thu Jun 14th, 2012 at 05:51:02 AM EST
Greek Shipowner Victor Restis, on SYRIZA's plan to impose some sort of minimal tax on ship-owners:
"You cannot squeeze and tackle a person that is in international shipping trade and finance and say, `I will tax you,'" said Restis, who controls a fleet of more than 200 vessels. "The answer is `sure, tax me. Find me.'"
Restis is not just a shipowner though, he is also a large shareholder in Greek media enterprises. The sort that spend most of their newscasts blaming working people for the disaster that has befallen them and complaining about fiscal imprudence and "generous" public sector salaries.
Promoted by Colman
Restis is among other things also in banking and tourism (in many countries). So is he as safe as he thinks?
I note that SYRIZA is not proposing some heavy tax-burden on the industry, it is proposing imposing a one-off wealth tax on ship-owners for now and then changing the laws so that are more like the Norwegian shipping tax system. They would surely be affected though by SYRIZA's implementation of a wealth register that would include foreign assets... As the Bloomberg story reports apparently shipowners have "remitted more than $175 billion in untaxed earnings to the country in 10 years", (at a mere 10% tax rate that would make for 14 billion euros in lost revenues)...
The truth is that there are rumors already floating about many shipping companies preparing to move their offices from Greece to other countries and/or change flags, and they might just start doing that to score a political point. However in order to go to a more favorable tax-regime, they would have to switch to a country flag that would be less privileged according to IMO and would therefore cost them more insurance fees and have a larger inspection burden etc. Also the fact that most of the ship-owners are heavily invested in all sorts of industries in Greece and own assets and property, might make a bargain anything but costless for them...
But the attitude described in the Bloomberg article is infuriating and indicative of how taken for granted is the privilege that the Greek tycoons enjoy:
A lack of government involvement helped Greece's maritime industry to remain competitive, according to Michael Bodouroglou, chairman of Paragon Shipping Inc. The Voula, Greece-based company operates 11 dry-bulk vessels and has three more under construction as well as two container ships, its website shows.
"If we have tax officers visiting shipping companies, they would eventually stop being as efficient as they are now," Bodouroglou said in a May 30 interview. "The most important characteristic of this business is that we're lucky enough to have very little interaction with the state."