International Monetary Fund representative in Greece Bob Traa
"To Vima" newspaper journalist Zois Tsolis told about his meeting with the representative of the International Monetary Fund in Greece Bob Traa, after a publication in the same newspaper regarding appointing people in the public sector, which caused a storm of reactions.
“Dear Mr. Tsolis. We read your article about the appointments in the public sector entitled, "Who confused the accounts in the memorandum" published on June 24. The Head of the International Monetary Fund in Athens Bob Traa would be happy if you went to his office to discuss this issue and its coverage."
The Sunday report gave data regarding the appointments in the public sector for the period 2010 - 2011 and regarding the ministers from the former cabinet who, despite the restrictions and the situation in the country, had increased its number of their employees.
With this e-mail, which I received on Tuesday, June 26, a real adventure started, revealing the role and authority, which the International Monetary Fund has exercised over the last two years in Greece.
I accepted the invitation of the Dutch representative of the International Monetary Fund, which was on Wednesday at 5.30 pm and I found myself in the building of the Bank of Greece, on 3 "Amerikis" street, where the International Monetary Fund is accommodated on the 8th floor.
After the personal belongings check at the entrance, the building security announced our arrival in the upstairs office. Traa’s Greek secretary came down to the ground level, accompanied me to the 8th floor and with an electronic key opened the door, behind which stood the Permanent Representative of the International Monetary Fund.
After she “submitted” me to the Greek economist in the IMF, who had sent the e-mail, I was taken down the corridor, to the boardroom, which had a long table in the middle.
I introduced myself and we sat down...
The Dutchman sat in the centre, his assistants were sitting on both sides of him and I was sitting across from him. The Greek, who is involved as an attendant in the technical missions of the International Monetary Fund, sat next to me, ready to help.
"Where did you find this document?"
The Dutchman was seething inside, you could tell by the colour of his face. He was browsing through the papers in front of him, reading the English translation of the article and the report published by "To Vima" newspaper.
It seems he was trying to restrain himself. The first thing he managed to say was:
- Where did you find this document?
- Asking a journalist the wrong question, was my answer. Every journalist who respects himself and others would give such a response.
- This report is mine, who gave it to you? - continued the little Dutchman.
Perhaps at this point I should have left. I thought about it, I hesitated, something prevented me from doing so, maybe it was the journalistic curiosity about how far this whole thing could go...
The Dutchman, playing the role of an investigator continued with the persistent questions:
- How did you conduct the study? Where did you find the report? Where did you find the information about the 2010 appointments?
The atmosphere became more severe. I changed strategy and started a counter-attack:
- You have been coming to Greece for the last 10 years and you still do not know what is happening. Not when you were a reviewer, not even now. You have increased taxes for two years now, you have cut salaries and pensions and wage costs are not decreasing...
He gave me an icy look...
It was clear that the Dutchman neither wanted to look into the reports, nor to recognize the data on the budgets from 2009 until today, revealing that the appointments in the public sector have never stopped.
It seems that he did not even want to hear that with the failure of the policy pursued in the country and with the wave of retirements, which was followed by turning to the International Monetary Fund and the memorandum, the state is paying more people than before (either as hired employees or as “laid off" pensioners). The present Greek assistants lost their words from the way the conversation turned out.
- In this report we are interested in the overall picture. Why did the memorandum fail, what mistake was made and why are we paying without any results?
He was going through his papers and asking:
- Why do you mention the names of ministers, we have not talked about any minister, they are our collaborators...
When I indicated that the figures in his report show the specific mistake, he exploded:
- We will not talk to "Το Vima" anymore. We thought you were an official newspaper of PASOK. We have other newspapers, which accurately deliver our data.
- Again, you are mistaken, I said. - "Το Vima" is the largest newspaper in the country, and it is not a semi-official publication of any party.
The meeting ended.
We stood up and did not give each other our hands, neither he nor I. However, I asked him:
- Really, how many appointments were made during those two years?
He did not want to answer but still he said:
In any case they are not 70,000.
They might be 60,000. Maybe we will never know the truth. The report, which we revealed, was also a document from the negotiations with the last government, for which Bob Traa was not able to notify his superiors and νοτ even the European Commission.