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Being a politician in Hellas must be an extremely hazardous profession. Perhaps it is the reason why their salaries are so high…danger pay!

Aside from the flying yoghurt, the heckling, the insults, and no longer being able to socialise in public, there is the threat of ill health that appears to strike at the most inopportune moments.

Imagine getting this important new job. Your boss is relying on you. He publicly emphasises the importance of needing you to attend a multitude of a meetings that will determine the future of the company. But the day after getting the job, and only days before two of the most important meetings, you book yourself in for the surgery you have put off for months, thus forcing your octogenarian boss (whose role in the company has always been symbolic) to go in your place…

Yeah, you know what would happen if you did that…hehehe

Fortunately for the new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras one cannot get fired from a democratically elected public office for taking sick leave at an inconvenient time. Admittedly he did have to endure some criticism from EU heads of state about having to cancel Monday’s Troika inspection to see how fiscal reforms have progressed. He also needed a doctors note to say he could not attend the EU Summit on Thursday and there was no avoiding the phone call he received from Obama (urging him to co-operate with the EU) when he got home from the hospital on Monday afternoon. The official version of why he simply had to have detached retina seen to this week is that he could not do it before because he was too busy campaigning to save the country in the elections.

Worse still is the terrible affliction that appears to prey on Greek Finance Ministers before important meetings. Remember last year when the then Prime Minister Papandreou had a wild idea for Greece to have a referendum on whether they wished to remain in the EU or not? Well, that was when FMAPS (Finance Minister’s Abdominal Pain Syndrome) first struck. Poor Finance Minister Venizelos was rushed to hospital after experiencing terrible pains in his stomach. He remained unavailable for comment from angry EU head’s of state for days afterwards, leaving everyone to speculate upon why he had suddenly taken ill. Some said it was a minor appendicitis problem, some said it was indigestion…no one knows for sure. The causes of the FMAPS can only be speculated upon too. It has been suggested that the pain was caused by his disagreement with Papandreou about holding a referendum. Others say that the thought of facing the EU after Papandreou’s announcement turned the contents of his stomach to stone.

And the FMAPS saga does not end there. It struck again on Friday. New Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos (above) took ill only hours before he was due to be sworn into office. He, like Samaras, was expected to meet with the Troika on this past Monday to discuss how many bailout conditions had been implemented to date. Conditions that need to be implemented in order for the next tranche of bailout funds to be released. So too was Rapanos expected to attend the EU Summit, but…like Venizelos, he was rushed to hospital for unexplained abdominal pains and remained unavailable for comment from Friday until yesterday when he emerged from his sick bed only to officially resign from the post he had almost been sworn into.

Now calling in sick to avoid doing awful duties in one’s hated job is an old trick that has been used and abused for long as men have been employed to do anything. And sometimes we really do not want to face what needs to be done. Sometimes we really are sick and the dog really did eat our homework. Sometimes we delude ourselves into believing that we are justified in avoiding our duties. But are we?

Sadly and ironically, regardless of how ill these men were or how necessary these hospitalisations may have been, to the EU it certainly must seem like a convenient delay. An indirect way of buying more time and avoiding the inevitable confrontation. Just more excuses…

More importantly the recent spate of absenteeism from the cabinet leads one to ask some important questions. Is avoiding conflict a trait one would respect in a Prime Minister? Will his non-attendance of important meetings give him the strategic advantage he needs to renegotiate the terms of the bailout agreement?

These bailout conditions are affecting the health and well being of Greece and its people. Re-negotiation is vital. Re-negotiation is the campaign promise that the Prime Minister was elected upon. His successful intervention may well be the difference between life and death for some. Yet so far he has not put his best foot forward. His actions have not expressed the pressing need to confront the Troika to resolve the issues of the bailout conditions, one way or another. Surely his surgery could have waited a week longer? After all, he had waited for two months while campaigning to ‘save’ a country. Will his attitude save the country at all?

And the sudden abdominal pains that strike the new Finance Ministers do nothing to inspire any confidence in the state of the finance ministry either…

Maybe I am just being horrible…maybe the dog really did eat their homework, as unlikely and convenient an excuse as it may seem…

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