We do have a fair number of trade-offs for our Greek island lifestyle. One of these is the banking system. For the last several months and with no end in site we have been experiencing a series of bank employees strikes. I don't know what good they do because it is always just one day at a time and not more than one day per week so everybody just works harder the next working day. Supposedly the issues are about pension and separation rights but it is really about modernization and efficiency. The Greek banking system uses computers but they are just layered on top of ancient paper systems.

I know this from my own experience. If I deposit a non-Greece check (lodge a non-Greece cheque), in my Paros account, it takes five minutes of paperwork plus an automatic 25 business days before I have access to my funds. If I lodge a non-Ireland cheque in my Irish bank it is done with a few key strokes and I have instance access unless it is a large sum and then it is available within a few days when the cheque clears electronically. It is interesting too that bank account fees in Ireland are a few Euro monthly plus pennies per transaction while in Greece there are no monthly fees but each transaction costs several Euro.

This is largely explained by the following report released by Charlie McCreevy, the EU Minister for the Internal Market (who was Ireland's Finance Minister when we lived there) provided by the Athens News Agency in a February 2006 bulletin:

More than any other country in the Eurozone, Greeks still prefer to pay
bills in cash rather than using modern payment methods offered by banks,
McCreevy stated. One possible cause might be the high fees charged by Greek banks for these services, the
Commissioner said.
McCreevy's reply was based on statistical figures compiled by the European
Central Bank on the use of payments through banks - such as money
transfers, credit cards, checks and direct debit orders - according to
which Greece ranks lowest among Eurozone countries.
Specifically, the figures for 2003 shows that the average Finn makes 227
payments annually via banks, the average Frenchman 215, the average Swede
147 and the average Greek just 10. The Eurozone average is 139 such
transactions per year. This indicates that a massive majority of payments
in Greece are still made in cash.

McCreevy also presented figures showing that Greece was by far the most
expensive country in the Eurozone for banking services.
He said the Commission has submitted a proposed directive for the
harmonization of the legal framework for payments on a national level.
The main aim of the directive is to create a single market for goods
and services that will help make payments cheaper and faster through
greater competition.

Which brings us back to efficiency and the corresponding lay-off of employees and our continuing round of banker's holidays.


At May 08, 2006 4:32 PM Chana said...

i love internet banking...i have forgotten what is like to write cheques etc...still though, i would trade it for the beauty of your world...no problem, no second thought...:)


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