May 28th, 2012
05:38 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – You’d be forgiven if the mild bounce in the markets Monday had you dreaming of better times for Greece and the eurozone. Your wakeup call comes to you courtesy Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, former French Finance Minister and the latest establishment figure to heap scorn on Greece.

In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with the Guardian newspaper, Lagarde may have for the first time uttered in public what some suspect many European politicians are saying behind closed doors. It’s payback time for Greece.

"Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." Lagarde told the Guardian.

Within hours, the indignation in Greece was palpable and laid bare on her Facebook page. Nearly 20,000 people have protested calling her insensitive and worse, arrogant.

As one Greek mother put it to CNN, Lagarde should visit real people in Greece, not politicians, to see how we living.

Lagarde responded, somewhat contrite, via Facebook, saying she is sympathetic to the challenges Greece is facing.

But as Dr. Thano Dokos, the director of Athens-based think tank ELIAMEP tells me, the damage is done. “This is a humiliated country, telling us what to do will not be well accepted.” he said.

As Dr. Dokos points out, everyone in Greece knows more tax compliance is needed. The problem is hardly new but it is also not a panacea.

The fact remains, Lagarde's comments are poorly timed. Just as polls show the pro-bailout parties are gaining some traction in Greece, her blunt assessment has been used as valuable ammunition for anti-austerity forces.

Europeans will need a strong stomach to weather the turbulence that is sure to come in the next few weeks. But Lagarde's comments underscore a fear that the entire continent is in denial and barely able to grasp reforms that must now follow, and not just in Greece.



soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Chris

    She spoke to the wrong newspaper, the Guardian's left-centre and thus their readership was up in arms; she should have spoke to the Times or the Telegraph, they would have been far more sympathetic to her, very true, opinions.

    May 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Alex Povolotski

    Lagarde should step down over this. The Greeks will never forgive her for that.

    So how does it help to collect taxes when Greece defaults? Of course Greece taxpayers held back their tax returns until things stabilize. I wouldn't have filed any taxes if your government and order fails. So what's the point of filing taxes to the government that's about to go bust? Keep your pennies.

    May 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  3. MELINA GRIGORIADOU

    We haven't ask any kind of donation from mrs Lagarde, she can give a donation from her own income to Nigeria and the families there- since she cares and thinks of them daily, i also care about mothers in Nigeria but i have no left money to donate any there, for now if you all allow me have as priority to feed my own kids here in Greece and the kids of my cousin who died and his widow can;t find a job, and the kids of my brother who lost his job being 47 years old and he can't find a job. In anycase, we didn;t ask mrs Lagarde for a favor or for a donation, whatever they give to Greece it's a loan and actually at a high interest rate

    May 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  4. y22nxdf2

    To those who admire this woman´s "courage," you should be aware she DOES NOT pay taxes on a very, very large salary.

    May 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  5. richard shia

    com'on Greece, if you don't pay for the bills you owe, who will? Do you always count on someone else to bail you out? Com'on take responsibilities for your actions.

    May 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  6. eastner

    Mrs Lagarde is quite right. It is time people in Greece to pay all taxes and return the loans. Until now they have got very high salaries, including 13-th and 14-th bonuses and received money that they have not worked out.

    May 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  7. lea

    They are only mad because she is so right. They want someone else to pay there way. Greece should be thrown out and the 430 billion the IMF have should go to the starving people in Africa a much better investment then a lazy greek country.

    May 28, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  8. idi

    I did not think that Ms. Lagarde was the correct person to head the IMF, and I still think she is not the correct person to be at the head of the IMF. However her comments are very true and I think everyone has had enough of the whining from Greece.

    May 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  9. The Oracle

    There's one constant in this whole debacle – blame!

    May 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  10. Lipstick Manager

    I like her necklace and a fact she uses Facebook. Ah yes, Greece is going down down down

    May 28, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Stuart

    Women, children and the poor are living hand to mouth and the this woman who probably doesn't even wipe her own behind has the gall to say such words. The elite bankers are truly taking over and even threatening sovereign nations.

    May 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  12. paranoia

    50% of yankees commenting here , are out of topic..
    example : lea

    They are only mad because she is so right. They want someone else to pay there way. Greece should be thrown out and the 430 billion the IMF have should go to the starving people in Africa a much better investment then a lazy greek country.
    –STOP watching NFL NBA and oprah , your brain cells are depleting–

    May 28, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  13. ioanna

    so, the poor families in Athens get morality lessons by the French head of the IMF now, after the lessons against corruption from Siemens 'employees'?
    and she is using the 'poor' kids of africa to support her position?? What's next?
    'give them cake' maybe?

    This narrow minded comments is indicative of her efforts to hide her and the Troika's responsibilities on the TOTAL faillure of the program imposed to the people in Europe.

    unless anyone believes that the 'immoral'/lazy parent in Greece is the one to blame for the status of the Portuguese/Spanish/Italian/Irish economy.

    Nemesis is close madam.

    May 28, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  14. ioanna

    paranoia, so you honestly believe that the reason the IMF does not help the poor kids in Africa today is because they are bailing out the lazy greeks? What was their excuse then 3 years ago? They save NOONE in Athens – they only save their bankrupt banks

    May 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  15. Liz

    Meanwhile in Asia, all countries are experiencing 10 percent growth... :) there are more europeans working in singapore now than asians... sign of the times... the tides are turning... Asia is the new boss of the world! :)

    May 28, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  16. papalamepimelos

    It's time for Greeks to stop shooting the messengers (in this case, Mrs. Lagarde), and start listening to the message.

    She said what everyone knows and thinks (even Greeks), but prefers to conveniently 'forget'.....

    May 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  17. Antje Ha

    Lagarde is spot-on. For decades the problem in Greece has been tax-evasion and the poor actions to combat it. They got large investments from the EU to start proper registration of immoblities. IN 20 years nothing has been achieved. Now the rich are fleeing Greece and their taxable money and propery has travelled out ahead of them. When Greeks don't help their own. Why would other be required to choose Greece over Niger which is more in need of help.

    May 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  18. asyousakforit

    All desperate debtor nations should just default and leave the EU and reform just like Argentina that recovered and regretted not leaving earlier. Look at Iceland it defaulted and took only less than 3 years to return to the international debt market. Its first foreign-currency bond auction since 2006, a $1 billion debt sale, was twice oversubscribed

    May 29, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  19. Anthony Kovic

    We live in a world where many people live irresponsibly and then get mad when someone dares to utter the truth.
    Yes, the Greeks have no one to blame but themselves for the mess they got themselves into.
    Not Merkel, not Legarde, not the IMF, not the EU, not the banks, not the bond issuers, but the GREEKS THEMSELVES.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  20. F Robinson

    Geeks are the biggest tax cheats who live on others hard work.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  21. MuppetAntwerp

    Mss Legarde is wright, but .. When European politicians signed Maastricht they knew Greek and other national accounts were a fraud. Not even Germany responded really to the standards for the Euro. All of those parasites should be brought forward for their responsability. But yes, the Greek should solve the problem they created; solidarity is not equal to paying by the carefull for the carelessness of the easy living. The image of the poor is the traditional escape for the socios who are very very responsible in Europe.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  22. michelle

    Mrs Lagard has been accused of giving some hundred million dollars to French crook like businessman out of State's budget. She has been nominated as a chief of IMF though yet she has not at all been cleard from her criminal behavior. She'd better behave herself and responsable for giving away people's tax to her crook like friend Mr Tapi before accusing Greece people.

    May 29, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  23. Nikit

    She must be correct. I have heard similar reports from other sources. There must be some truth to these allegations.
    She is smarter, more intelligent, better educated and has a better view on the big picture than those little people who are up in arms against her.
    Surely there must be some truth to what she says.

    She has my vote and I fully believe her and support her.

    May 29, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  24. Paul

    So, do greeks pay their taxes or not?

    May 29, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  25. FrenchArmy

    So Lagarde, a politician from France, cares more for children in Niger than those in Greece, eh? Then why doesnt your nation pay reparations for the damage and murders that was done in Africa? Remember, the colonial French days?

    May 29, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  26. Tax

    Can anyone prove her wrong? and not just now 2012, but across the last 6 years?

    May 29, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  27. panos

    Dont be so sure about Greeks not paying taxes.The are ofcourse those who manage to hide some incomes because they can, but please know that taxes are way up for decades in Greece and if lived here, you would pay tax for everything, and further more you would enjoy yhe worst public services for it. Bad health services, bad education, buruocracy and disorganization everywhere. You would have to work 2 or 3 jobs because salaries are opposite to prices...and yes, at the end you will enjoy comments on cnn and elsewhere, about lazy not paying taxes Greeks. Can it be any better?

    May 29, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  28. guesta1

    She told the truth. It is really time to payback. Others countries may follow if there are not cautious with their national debt.

    May 29, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  29. costadosol

    Votre Excelance,je me excuse de discordez! has the lady and her "technocrats" ever considered the following.. That Greece and the Mediterranean are the Political Gaffe that her and her "technocrats" orchestrated !!! even if Greeks paid all their taxes (which happens nowhere ) it will not sort out the problem, they created!... have we forgotten all the euro bureaucracy, the quotas paranoia, the obsessive taxing,all of which slowed down,if not destroyed, the European economy ?? where were they when the Greeks were cooking the books? now they are so ridiculous , going after pensioners to retrieve funds...I think the Madame should go to Italy and try start a busyness and see what it takes to navigate through all the bureaucracy and the taxes she will have to pay and then see if her busyness will make it! or try doing it in Greece..! and then maybe she could come out with these sweeping, ridiculous statements !

    May 29, 2012 at 8:14 am |
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    May 29, 2012 at 10:20 am |
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  32. tonyfromnb

    €8.954 billion was the cost of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, and that is straw which broke the 'greek' back.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  33. Jim

    What made Greeks and many people furious with Mrs. Legarde isn't just this..."As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." ....She said that she actually feels more sympathetic for poor children starving to death in Africa rather Greek people. When you are the head of IMF you don't make these types of comments. Also everyone knows that Mrs. Legarde makes more than 300,000 EUROS and off course are not taxed. She shouldn't be talking

    May 30, 2012 at 4:13 am |
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