Posts tagged ‘Greek economic crisis’

Greek crisis:a view from the inside

Today, Friday, I had to go to the center of Athens on business. I had not been downtown for a long time. I detest the center of Athens, end of summer beginning of autumn, when it is still hot enough to sweat, noisy enough to drive you nuts and as dirty as the rest of the year.

This morning I realised why my friends and acquaintances who work downtown look so depressed. There was a strike of the metro, the tram and the suburban train system. The result was a chaos of traffic. The bus system is inadequate and inefficient most of the time so noone is surprised at today’s mess. Add to this explosive cocktail a march that occupied the area between Syntagma and Omonia Squares, trapping cars and trolleys for hours and  adding fuel fumes to the suffocating atmosphere,   and you can understand why the people are so desperate and disappointed with this government as well as with the previous ones. “We Greeks are tired before we reach our place of work!!” , complains a thirty something man.

A young woman is waving frantically at a taxi. She knows she is going to pay an exorbitant amount due to the traffic but has no choice if she wants to get to work on time. “They (her employers) are looking for an excuse to fire people. I cannot afford to give them one”, she says to her friend who argues that taxis are expensive.

I walk from the bus stop to the office where I have to be at ten. It is a depressing fifteen minutes: many old firms have closed and the street is filled with “to let” signs. The number  of melancholy men and women, who seem not to care so much about their looks and are lost in thought have increased. The verbal attacks on immigrants in buses are multiplying and there are charges of physical attacks as well in the seedy side of the metropolis. Racism and xenophobia are invading and eroding Greek society. Extreme right politicians are gaining ground blaming the immigrant influx for the rampant unemployment.

The Social democratic government is trapped in the “markets rule” theory and cannot – or will not? – resist the pressure of the Monetary Fund.

The left, maligned for so long and still bearing the stigma of the  failure of the communist regime, sees its proposals rejected without being heard.

This is the atmosphere in Greece: disappointment with the government’s handling of the situation, despair at the inability of the country to get out of this bottomless debt, insecurity and fear of what may come tomorrow. Naomi Kleine’s “Shock doctrine” comes to mind.

Does Greek society have enough strength and cohesion to withstand this “experiment” and survive? I am no fortune teller but feel that the only way out of this impasse is solidarity and more solidarity, hope and more hope, struggle and more struggle.

It is raining special contributions in Greece

I have to apologise because I have not written anything about Mr. Papandreou’s speech and announcements in Thessaloniki. My excuse is that he usually changes his statements about one day after making them ( I have proof) but also that it is becoming extremely depressing to watch the news – especially on tv.

In the meantime the Greek working people are faced with a storm of “special contributions” with various tags after them. A “special solidarity contribution” calculated on a percentage of the income stated on the tax return of 2010. A second “special contribution” will be paid by all home owners. This one will be calculated according to the size of the property and the area in which it is located. The lowest is 50 cents per square meter for buildings, flats etc situated in a cheap area and the highest 10 Euros per square meter for the more expensive, high class areas.This “special contribution” – a special tax to call it by its right name- will be collected through the DEH (Public Electricity Company)bi-monthly bills. As you understand in case the property is rented the lessor has to pay and deduct it from the rent.

Greek citizens live in daily uncertainty, not knowing what their income is or what will be left of it at the end of the month while the PASOK government promises “development”.

( Special notice: I have translated the Greek word εξαιρετική as “special” even though the actual meaning is “extraordinary”.I did this because it has not been clear whether these contributions are in reality “extraordinary” or will be repeated annually or monthly in the future)


Greek economist:The European Central Bank can open a way out of the present crisis

Yiannis Dragasakis, former MP for the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA)who served as Deputy Minister of Economics in the all party government of Xenophon Zolotas, is acknowledged in Greece, grudgingly but acknowledged, as one of the best brains in his field.
In an interview at the Sunday (14/8/2011) edition of AVGI (left wing Greek daily) Mr. Dragasakis comes up with proposals that are new to me, at least and quite plausible if only the European leaders start listening to the people’s needs instead of the markets.
In reference to the Eurobond he claims that “This measure is not sufficient anymore. …..because what does “Eurobond” mean? It means borrowing from the markets and therefore the markets become the regulators of the debt.” Timing is important so Mr.Dragasakis goes a step further: “Now, the radical solution is for the European Central Bank to take up part of the debt. It has been suggested that part of the national debts be “unionized” (be considered as a debt of the European Union as a whole). Secondly, the European Central Bank can cover part of the debt by issuing money in order to prevent the risk of uncontrolled inflation, something already practiced in the US and Japan. Thirdly, countries should have the possibility to borrow money from the Central Bank. These measures mean a radical change of the European Union, of the Maastricht Treaty”.
Mr. Dragasakis’proposals become more credible if one goes to his personal page and reads his interventions in the Greek Parliament. He had been warning of a crisis since the autumn of 2006!!
The SYRIZA Parliamentarian claims that neither the conservative nor the social democratic models can give a way out of the crisis. The left forces, in cooperation with the unions, need to overcome their differences, unify their actions and connect the necessary resistance to wholly alternative policies.