Australia has some very rich Greeks. Many have built fortunes from nothing in a generation or two. So they might bulk at a bold request from the mother country: send cash to rescue Greece from its debt crisis.
No way, says Peter Kazacos, the son of Greek immigrants who has made his millions in Australia as an IT entrepreneur. He gives a lot to charity but says he will not throw good money after bad. The Greek parliament’s president, Philippos Petsalnikos, asked wealthy Greeks around the world to contribute to a fund to slash the nation’s €300 billion ($A454 billion) debt.
Many of the seven million members of the Greek diaspora have made fortunes in Australia, the United States, Britain and South Africa, so successful individuals could contribute to a fund headed by ”a personality of broad public appeal beyond party politics”, says Mr Petsalnikos, a prominent member of the governing socialist party PASOK.
The Herald cast the net wide yesterday for potential benefactors among rich Greek Australians, who include six members of the latest BRW Rich 200 list. They got one reply – in the negative.
Mr Kazacos owned 20 per cent of Kaz Computing when he sold it to Telstra in 2004 for $333 million, and he is building a new IT and telecommunications venture, Anittel. He knows how quickly money can be made, and lost.
”If you were going to contribute to something like that, you’d have to be comfortable they knew how to solve the crisis,” he said. ”I’m not sure that’s the case.”
It’s not that he lacks generosity. Mr Kazacos and his Greek-born wife, Vicki, run the Kazacos Foundation. ”We focus on providing money to areas where we can see it actually grow rather than be consumed,” he says.
Greece, he says, is not such a solid bet with its poor governance and self-interested politicians; a questionable work ethic; a failure to live up to its responsibilities since joining the European Union; and a huge black economy in which ”no one’s paying the right amount of tax”.
The Greek government might try knocking on some other doors in Australia.
Richest Greek-Australians (According to Greek Rich List)
Kon & Ros Makris (AUD 1.1 billion)
Paspales Family (AUD 620 million)
Kerry Charmanes (AUD 520 million)
Stamoules Family (AUD 411 million)
Karides Family (AUD 300 million)
(With information from the Sydney Morning Herald / Rick Feneley)