Greeks in Singapore gloomy on future of their nation

Singapore's small Greek community is naturally concerned about the crisis back home but does not hold out much hope for better times in the near future.

There are only about 250 Greek nationals registered with their country's consulate here, and most are working in the shipping business with others in finance, construction, research and development, and education.

Singapore Management University associate professor Kyriakos Mouratidis, 34, who has lived in Singapore for almost a decade, visits his home country twice a year, most recently last Christmas. His parents live there and have been affected by pension cuts. "The signs of the crisis are deeper and deeper each time I go," he said yesterday.

Mr Panagiotis Lynas, 44, who moved to Singapore in 1996 and is the co-founder and chief executive of a Singapore-based fashion and interior design firm, said: "Organising a referendum is expensive, and wasting money on a referendum instead of getting around a table with all the parties is just irresponsible."

Mr Lynas also feels the political leadership has missed the opportunity to privatise companies and is now too unstable to garner foreign- investor confidence. Greece's economic troubles have discouraged him from relocating his family to his homeland even though the father of four would like to raise his children in the Greek culture.

Prof Mouratidis said his brother was forced to leave Greece in 2012 for greener pastures in France.

"It is sad to see highly educated and skilled people having to leave their own country," he added.

Mr Christos Parlapanis, 30, also left home to seek greener pastures, arriving here in 2012 to work as the operations manager of Greek restaurant Blu Kouzina. He had struggled to find a job at home after completing his master's in tourism management, planning and policy at the University of the Aegean.

His parents and elder brother are still living in Athens, and he will be making his first trip back next month. "It doesn't matter that you're so far away, of course you still feel sad... poverty is getting higher and there is no middle class any more," he said. "I wish I could have gone back earlier."

Mr Pericles Boutos, who is Greece's Ambassador to Thailand and also now accredited to Singapore, told The Straits Times that Greeks living in Singapore are subject to the same controls in Greece if they use a Greek-issued credit card, which is a daily withdrawal limit of €60 (S$90).

He added that "the consulate in Singapore and the embassy in Bangkok are ready to assist Greek tourists who have travelled with Greek credit cards".

This article was first published on July 1, 2015.
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