Austerity in Greece: The 'Shock Therapy' Killing the Patient

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Common Dreams

Austerity in Greece: The 'Shock Therapy' Killing the Patient

"There is no working class, only people living on the brink.”

by
Common Dreams staff

As Greek officials continue negotiations with their creditors over further austerity measures demanded to receive a bailout package, years of harsh cuts have been steadily unraveling Greek society with soaring unemployment, increasing homelessness and financial insecurity.

France 24 reports that the middle class is disappearing with people living "on the brink":

Athens 12 February 2012

Jobless rates in Greece are soaring, with nearly 21 percent of the total active population, and roughly 50 percent of those under 25 years-old, unemployed. Maria (not her real name), in her thirties, has a good job in the Greek labour ministry. She thinks the real unemployment figures are considerably higher than the official numbers cited by authorities. “Many people are not registered as job seekers,” she said. “Often they’re hopeless; they think that declaring themselves as unemployed won’t help them get anywhere.” [...]

‘People living on the brink’

“With my situation here five years ago, I would have considered buying an apartment,” Maria explained. “Today, it’s impossible. We don’t even plan on having children now, because it would be too hard to raise them in proper conditions.” In less than a year, her salary was cut by more than 18 percent. “And I was hired after the biggest salary cuts for civil servants [imposed after the first austerity plan in May 2010].” [...]

The lowering of the minimum monthly salary for those under 25 years of age from 586 to 360 euros has certainly not helped young Greeks trying to make ends meet. “On 586 euros a month, you may be able to live with a roommate and have enough to eat every day in Athens,” Maria said. “But you can’t pay for transportation, telephone or internet bills. Everyone seems to think it’s only about numbers and figures, but 11 million Greeks are affected. The middle class is disappearing; there is no working class, only people living on the brink.”

Writing for the Guardian, Helena Smith says years of cuts have not helped the Greek economy:

Although heartened by offerings of support by socialists in Europe, including the French presidential contender, François Hollande, Greek officials say the shock therapy now being administered to Greece after almost two years of savage spending cuts has dramatically hindered any attempt to improve its economic position.

Figures released by the nation's statistics agency this week showed that Greece is going through one of the biggest slumps in western history, with its GDP plunging 7% on an annual basis in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, faster than the 6.8% decline for all of 2011.

"They want sound figures in the economy but with dead citizens," said another insider, saying the austerity Greece was being forced to mete out in return for aid was coming perilously close to killing the patient.

This Al Jazeera video shows growing homelessness, wage cuts and financial crises wreaking havoc on ordinary Greeks:

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