Unprecedented! Greece passed a law that legalizes the bribes asked by doctors and civil servants. These bribes are commonly called ‘fakelaki’ (little envelope) as the citizens tend to hand them over in an envelope.
The law provision was submitted in March to the Greek parliament by professor Yiannis Panousis, MP of junior coalition government partner Democratic Left. The provision passed with overwhelming majority provides that: “the simple material expression of gratitude is not a bribe.”
However Panousis original proposal included a crucial differentiation
“the simple material expression of gratitude with no monetary value is not a bribe.”
Panousis expressed his objection and asked the sentence “no monetary value” to be reintroduced.
However Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis ( also from Democratic Left) argued there could not be any ‘gratitude” without monetary value.
“I could feel the need to send something to my doctor, I could… I say, I did not say… I did, and it has monetary value. So what do they say? I will send a gift of gratitude but with no monetary value. Please, answer me: is there any gift without monetary value? ” Roupakiotis told private Mega TV.
The president of Hellenic Medical Association Matina Pagoni, told the same TV program, that the Association asked the withdrawal of this law, stressing that it gives no credits to doctors. “Our view is that we respect ourselves and the patients. We do not accept this article. We do not ask any graditude. This is our position.”
The General Inspector of Public Administration, Leandros Rakintzis, told private ANT1 TV, that “no civil servant has been ever punished for a flower bouquet or a box of sweets. I think, we need to determine this legislative issue. In this way, there could be a cap. Doctors get thick envelopes. This legislation legalizes from the back door the ‘fakelaki’ and the ‘speed-fee’ [bribe to civil servants for the quick forwarding of issues of administrative issues, drivers’ and building licenses etc].
Rakintzis clarified that even if the legislations is withdrawn at the very end, offenders will be barred from offenses, if this legislation is valid for even a single day. ”
The argument of Yiannis Panousis for this privision was to protect civil servants accused of breaching the code of conduct for a “simple expression of graditude” like an invitation to dinner by a patient to his doctor. Panousis wanted apparently to protect civil servants from dismissal amid the discussion of 15,000 civil servants to be sacked until 2014.
I believe the whole discussion would be non-existing, if there was a precise definition of ‘simple‘.
Nevertheless, this provision is actually a scandal! Can you imagine a doctor asking boxes of chocolates in order to sell them to his collegueas? Or a taxman selling dozens of flower bouquets under the hand?
But worse is this: the ‘fakelaki’-bribe cap is set to 50-100 euro. This could bring the doc or civil servant with 5 clients per day, some 250-500 euro per day, 6,250-12,500 euro per month. “Black” and tax-free. And the tax office would not accept the ‘graditude’ as expenditure in the income declaration of the giver.
And really worst would be that: the Greek patient would be obliged by the law to accept the bribe request by the doctor, increasing the patients’ contribution for his health care.
I could understand the Greek government wanting to silence doctors protesting about their sharply cut salaries. But on the cost of the patient? Unacceptable!
PS a kiss, a hug or a shake hands are expressions of graditude without monetary value. Even if they can be priceless sometimes.