Stavridis: privatisation is 'god's blessing'

Before his dismissal, privatisation agency chief talks openly - and rudely - to Norwegian press

In his interview with a Norwegian newspaper, Stelios Stavridis praises privatisation as a godsend, attacks those calling for Athens' old airport to be turned into a park and says Greeks are not clever

Stelios Stavridis (file photo) Stelios Stavridis (file photo) Greece would be better off if it was populated by Norwegians rather than stupid Greeks, privatisation is “a god’s blessing” and anyone opposed to it should go “f*ck” themselves.

There were among the crude messages delivered by Stelios Stavridis, days before he was dismissed as head of the country’s privatisation agency Taiped, to a Norwegian newspaper.

In a August 4 interview with journalist Christina Pletten of Bergens Tidende, the Scandinavian country’s fourth largest, which has only now been picked up by the Greek media via the Press Project, Stavridis also says those who have lost out because of austerity have a personal responsibility to turn their lives around.

Stavridis was dismissed from his position on August 19 after it emerged that he had flown on the private jet of oil and shipping magnate Dimitris Melissanidis hours after the latter had signed a deal to buy the state’s one-third share in betting firm Opap.

Screengrab of the article from the Bergens Tidende's website (EnetEnglish) Screengrab of the article from the Bergens Tidende's website (EnetEnglish) In his interview with the Norwegian journalist, who noted how he shouted at his secretaries, Stavridis praised privatisation as a godsend and bemoaned that few people, apart from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, were prepared to crusade for it.

Privatisation; it’s a god’s blessing. Because it’s all about investment, it’s all about job creation, it’s all about wealth creation. Who goes out and says that privatisation is a god’s blessing? Have you heard that from a politician here in Greece? Very few. Three, four, five. The prime minister and another three. But this is the facts. Growth in this country depends on privatisation. So, we are the last hope and the last resort of Greece. If we succeed, we will see more and more Greeks working in their own country, with dignity, happiness and prosperity.

When asked about whether the old airport at Elliniko should become a resource for city’s population instead of being sold off to investors, Stavridis was damning of the idea and scathing of those who supported it.

They’re just preaching. They’re just saying no, no, no. Fuck you! Tell me how yes. Sorry. This is the thing. Don’t tell me now the why not. I know the why nots. This is the conventional wisdom. Tell me how yes. How can we make things happen?

The privatisation agency boss then expressed the view that he’d prefer if Greece was populated with Norwegians than Greeks, who were not clever.

So, of course it’s true. If Greeks were averagely clever, Piraeus should have been much bigger than Hamburg ten years ago. Sometimes in this country, you spend much more time than in any other country ... I wish I could live in Norway. I wish I could have Norwegians around me and live in Greece. And then we can have ...

But when the journalist interrupted him to point out that Norway also has a large state, Stavridis replied: "I know, I know, but you don’t have enough sun."

Stavridis also expressed little sympathy for people who are suffering as a result of austerity, saying it their responsibility to turn things around:

It’s the free-market competition. Someone wins; someone loses. Now, if you start, you know, crying your head off because some people are taking advantage of your misery, I mean it’s your own responsibility to turn things around. C'est la vie. It’s a matter of thinking.

At the end of the interview, Stavridis showed the Norwegian journalists a photograph of his hotel and villa villa with two swimming pools on the island of Kefalonia.

Before the crisis, Stavridis' company Piscines Ideales was Europe’s biggest pool construction company, building over 1,000 pools a year, but his business drained as a result of the economic downturn.

In the May 2012 general election, Stavridis headed the list for the neoliberal Drasi party. He subsequently announced his decision to support New Democracy, but did not contest the June election. The coalition government then appointed him head of Athens Water before moving him to the state privatisation agency in March.

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