There’s No More to Squeeze: Greeks Live in Dread of Troika Verdict

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Daniel Steinvorth in Athens, July 26, 2012;

Financial inspectors from the troika have arrived in Greece to draft their final report on whether the country has made enough progress with its austerity and reform efforts. But many Greeks have already lost hope and are counting on the worst – an exit from the euro zone.  

An aluminum bowl filled with pasta, a bottle of water and a bread roll. “The most important thing is that it quiets your hunger,” says Yannis. The 63-year-old is leaning on the wall of a building on Sophocles Street spooning up his lunch. He spent the last half-hour waiting in line outside a soup kitchen in downtown Athens. He says he doesn’t have any money for food, adding: “I earn €500 ($600), of which €200 goes to rent alone.”

Yannis numbers among the more than 400,000 people in the greater Athens area that rely on free food for their daily survival. He doesn’t harbor any illusions anymore — either about his future or that of his country. “I don’t know how they expect to keep squeezing people like me anymore. There’s no more to squeeze. Should I throw myself off a high-rise to unburden the state?”

People like Yannis can say what Greece’s social reality feels like these days. In particular, he can convey the frustration that has come to grip almost all levels of society. Many have had to accept layoffs, losing up to half of their income and pension cuts, on top of which comes an endless stream of new taxes and fees. They’ve had to watch as stores shut down and entire city neighborhoods become run-down. They’ve also observed how pharmacies have turned to dispersing medications for cash only, and seen the number of drug addicts and suicides rise.

Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), recently visited Greece. She says she saw a country in which people are “losing hope.” She added that people told her that they “are frightened to have children because they will not be able to support them.”

Playing for Time: … //

… No Plan B:

Given the country’s catastrophic economic situation — with a recession of 7 percent and unemployment of 24 percent and rising — Samaras has been hoping for new negotiations. But Athens probably won’t be granted any.

For this reason, the well-known political columnist Stavros Lygeros is counting on the worst. “Our economy is lying on the ground and is kicked once again with every additional savings measure,” he says. “No society can bear that for long.” In order to escape the vicious cycle of savings diktats, recession and rising debt, he says that Greece actually needs extra time – and a plan for a radical fresh start.

Still, when asked what will happen if the troika makes good on its threat to cut off the flow of money to Athens, Lygeros is somber. “Nothing was planned for this case,” he says. “Every country has a Plan B, but not Greece. Our politicians have totally acted like exorcists on this issue. They believe that as long as they can ward off the evil – that is, the return to the drachma – then the problem has been taken care of.” (full text).

Links:

From Stable to Negative: Moody’s Cuts Outlook for Germany’s Top Rating, on Spiegel Online International, July 24, 2012;

Dept Crisis, related articles on Spiegel Online International;

Austerity Measures, related articles on Spiegel Online International;

Euro Crisis, related articles on Spiegel Online International;

Where has all the surplus gone? on RWER Blog, by David Ruccio, July 26, 2012;

Take Our Money, Please! on RWER Blog, by Peter Radford, July 26, 2012;

Job creation isn’t the only answer: How Less Work for Everybody Could Solve a Lot of Our Economic Turbulence and Make Life More Pleasant, on AlterNet, by Sarah Seltzer, July 20, 2012.

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