Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt
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Debt in Northern countries

Greece

Greece: Massive depression and numbers that remind Argentina

27 October 2011 by Moissis Litsis

Nowadays, there is hardly any home in Greece without at least one unemployed, recently dismissed or underpaid. An entire society lives in massive depression.

"Have you heard that he has been fired and that he is out of job for almost a year?” “We haven’t been paid for the past 1 or 2 months”. “The store is about to close”. These are just few of the common conversations that someone could hear in Greece everyday.

Two years after the debt crisis and the successive austerity measures, the Greek economy-society sinks in bankruptcy, which only typically has not yet been proclaimed. The Greek government announced only a few days ago, under the pressure from Troika Troika Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty. , a new package of measures, such as of the layoff 30.000 employees in the public sector this year and 120.000 more until 2014, 20% cut for the pensions that are more than 1.200 euros per month and 40% for the pensioners that are under the age of 55(mostly women) and a new series of taxes which affect even people that live in the official level of poverty and earn about 350 euros per month(!).

Every Greek is obliged to pay for ever (!) a new poll tax- a new property tax according to the region that their house, apartment or shop belongs and a new tax on revenue taxes already paid (!)

The crisis hits equally young and older people, especially between the ages of 35 and 50.People who have worked for their whole life, are about to be left in the streets without any alternative options.

The unemployment is officially up to 16% and the IMF foresees a further increase to 18, 5% in 2012 with negative growth -2%(-5% this year). The number of homeless has increased at about 20-25% during the past two years. In the private sector hundreds of businesses are closing, the salaries are continuously decreasing, while many companies delay the salary payments for many months.

The collective agreements are de facto abolished in most sectors and the workers are forced to sign a private agreement, with the minimum basic salary of 751 euros-20% lower for the young people under the age of 25.Hundreds of employees are working overtime without being paid while others work for 5 or 6 hours with wages of 200-300 euros.

The industrial production is decreased at about 2,8% (July 2011), in the wholesale sector the turnover 10, 8% and the sales of cars 31,2% During the past three years the uninsured cars are increased for about 50%.

One out of two Greeks no longer have a bank account. According to a research that has been conducted by the research company Focus Bari in March 2011, only the 57% of the Greeks have bank deposits. According to the Bank of Greece, the deposits of the Greeks have been decreased in May to 159, 3 billions from 196, 8 billions euros in December 2009 (-19%).

Seven out of ten working differences have to do with accrued payment, the delayed mortgage loans have been increased to 10,7% while the uncovered cheques are expected to reach 2 billions euros this year-till July they were up to 1,4 billion euros.

These numbers are even more tragic when someone think that even before the crisis more than 20% of Greeks lived under the limit of poverty. Moreover, Greeks spend huge sums in “frontistiria”- private learning institutes for foreign languages or in order to pass the entry exams to universities and huge sums in private doctors because of the inadequate public health system.

The only businesses that flourish nowadays in Greece are the growing stores which buy gold (jewelry, coins etc). The turnover of the pawnshops is estimated to have risen up to 30%.

Greeks, young and older ones, seek their fortune again in Australia, one of the countries which had absorbed the waves of hundreds of Greek immigrants during the 50’s and 60’s, when their homeland was trying to recover from the consequences of the World War Two and the Civil War which succeeded it.

In addition to all that, the fear that the country would default and may be forced to exit from euro and new and bigger financial and social consequences would occur, forces many people to hide their few savings in euros into their houses, in safe boxes or in a bank account abroad.

The financial and social crisis hurts even more the hundreds of legal or illegal immigrants especially those who come from African or Asian countries, which are stuck in a sort of ghetto in Athens’ centre, creating another unresolved social problem.

Despite the unprecedented ruin of the living standard that reminds Argentina in 2001, not only cannot Greek people distinguish a light at the end of the tunnel but every time that Troika(EU-IMF) is about to give a new payment from the bailout agreement, the government announces new series of hard economic measures. And despite all these hard austerity measures, the public debt will achieve in 2012, 189% of GDP, according the latest IMF’s report, from172% that the international organization foresaw in June.

If the situation continues like that, a social explosion will be inevitable and bigger than the recent mass demonstrations in Syntagma square.

Moisis Litsis is a financial journalist in the daily Greek newspaper “Elefterotipia”.

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