Ryanair Chief to Greeks: Stop Drinking Coffee and Listening to Your Lunatic Leaders

by John Fund

Starting in 2008, Ireland suffered a housing-market collapse, soaring unemployment, and a full-scale banking crisis. Economic output fell by 10 percent in the first year alone. Ireland had to get outside aid from the EU and IMF. But unlike Greece, having taken its medicine Ireland has crawled out of its hole and the outlook is for slow, sustained growth.

That gives Michael O’Leary, the no-nonsense CEO of the low-cost airline Ryanair, some standing to comment on Greece. He notes his company is one of the few non-Greek firms increasing its business in the country. But he told the Ireland’s Newstalk TV that Greeks have to become more productive and ignore the siren calls of the “lunatics” in Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing government:

There is a fundamental problem in Greece that 52 percent of households in Greece depend on pensions as their main source of income but only 11 percent of Greek people pay tax.

Now that’s a circle you’re never going to close, more Greeks have to pay tax, you have to close off the black market, and less Greeks have to be able to live off pensions.

More people have to be productive, yes, elderly people and young people need help.

If you are of a working age, go out and work.

You can’t be bloody retiring, sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and expecting the Germans or the Irish or the Portuguese to pay for you.

O’Leary said the Greeks need to look at what happened in his native country. “As we learned from our pain in Ireland, you can talk tough all you like but when next week you have to borrow from the Germans to pay the teachers and the pensions and everything else, at some point you run out of road,” he said. “They are making a bunch of promises to their people about public pay and public pension, which our government found a number of years ago you can’t honor unless you borrow from the Germans. If you want to borrow from the Germans, you have to take the medicine.”

But O’Leary closed out his interview on a slightly more cheery note, saying he is working to help Greeks who cannot pay for flights with credit cards because of capital controls. “We’re actually talking to the Greek government today about carrying people for free for the next two weeks on some of the domestic routes (inside Greece).” He left unsaid the fact that far too many Greeks are planning a permanent exit from their country on Ryanair flights if the economic news becomes more dire.  

The Corner

The one and only.