President Anastasiades fired a broadside against doctors who were refusing to join the national health scheme (Gesy) in an interview with Omega TV on Monday night, resorting to the type of sweeping generalisation and moralising that is used on social media. We would have expected the President of the Republic to show a little restraint when speaking in public about an important matter and not adopt the empty populism of social media commentators.
In the interview, Anastasiades suggested doctors might not want to join Gesy because their incomes would be monitored, implying that they were involved in tax evasion. He called on doctors to submit their tax declarations of the last seven years so “they could be rewarded accordingly within the Gesy framework.” The alleged refusal of private doctors paying their full tax dues has been declared the main obstacle to Gesy, under which they would be unable to hide their incomes.
If tax evasion among doctors is so widespread why has the Anastasiades government, that has been in power for almost six years, done nothing about it? Tax evasion is a criminal offence so why has the Anastasiades government, which is so sure doctors have not been declaring their full incomes to the taxman, done nothing about it? Why have the state authorities done nothing to tackle the tax evasion by the doctors, which even the president knows about? If the authorities ensured doctors paid tax on all their incomes they would have no incentive to stay out of Gesy.
There are doctors that engage in tax evasion just as there are lawyers, teachers, accountants, estate agents and others that do so. The president of a state that has rule of law would not single out one profession for special mention but focus on eradicating tax evasion by all professionals. Of course, those doctors that avoid declaring their full income would want to carry on doing so just like the lawyers, accountants, teachers that will not be joining Gesy.
Tackling tax evasion should be the concern of the president and not accusing doctors of engaging in it as if this was unheard of in any other profession. Gesy will not be implemented by accusing doctors of tax evasion. On Monday, two medical specialties – paediatricians and gastroenterologists – said they would not be joining the scheme. Instead of trying to address their concerns, as has been done in the case of government doctors and nurses, the president is resorting to populist generalisations that are guaranteed to antagonise the doctors. This is not the smartest way to ensure Gesy is on track for implementation next June.