“Article and country feedback”, written exclusively for the newspaper The Guardian and its editor Alan Rusbridger: Greece after five years in recession – Accelerated poverty in Greece
Greece was once upon a time, the cornerstone of western civilization and the birth place of democracy. How is the situation in Greece today? Is there any future left for the small country and its citizens after five continuous years of recession? Many Greek citizens are currently dreaming of leaving for Germany in order to get a job washing up dishes in restaurants or for the Netherlands and its tulip farms. As the unemployment rate is much higher than the official, the impression given to an observer is that very few people work, or have any disposable income.
We all know what happens during periods of financial crisis, as well as what effect the IMF has had wherever in the world has got involved in. The poor in Greece are presently thousands; thus, pawnshops have sprung up in most neighborhoods, bringing up memories from darker periods in modern Greek history. Frustrated with their circumstances, vulnerable people have joined far-right parties, groups and even gangs which rob houses in the northern (upper class) suburbs of Athens. The Greek Church has assumed a vital role in assisting those mostly in need by organizing soup kitchens, but that is usually not enough as the number of service users grows by the week, including instances of malnutrition in schools.
At some point, the government legislated for a one-off benefit of €450 and in the first few days 650,000 people applied. (The initiative was taken a few weeks before the European election of 2014.) It is worth saying that, despite the above, the government and its friendly media continue to talk about Greece as being ‘a success story’ and the main job for some in the cabinet appears to be to try and find cracks in Greece’s left-wing main opposition party SYRIZA, is led by Alexis Tsipras, whose right-hand man (and Director of his office) is Nikos Pappas, a childhood friend of his that enjoys his trust to a level that resembles the relationship between Marx and Engels. The Greek government seems to no longer represent the majority of the Greek people, hence its effort to increase its own legitimacy and levels of consolidation through non-political issues, like the Amphipolis Tomb or the reopening of the case of the Parthenon Marbles, currently exhibited in the British Museum. According to all indications, the coalition government of the country’s centre-right Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his center-left ally Vangelis Venizelos, seems to have ahead of it the life of fresh milk since, except of the mini humanitarian crisis they have brought about as a result of their financial choices, they have failed to tax the elite and the super rich, thereby firmly placing the burden of the state’s revenue on the shoulders of salaried workers and pensioners.
Unable to cope, most of the latter have stopped paying even the utility bills: water, electricity, communal charges, not to mention the heavy loans to the banks and the taxes. For example, a plethora of families have chosen to cut off the electricity, so that they can automatically be exempt from the high taxation on each property which is linked to the network power. Further, the fragmentation and general discrediting of trade unions –traditionally, the main platform of support of such causes- has impacted negatively on the above groups’ ability to respond publicly to the onslaught they have been suffering and as a result, most of them have remained isolated and silent. The Greek journalists on the other hand, most of them linked to the government parties that have been in power since 1974, keep their mouths shut, and of course, jump to a parliamentary seat at the earliest opportunity. The younger politicians are also blind with ambition, regularly socializing with their elderly colleagues –the main culprits for the fact Greece has been brought to its knees- and being unwilling and unable to form a clear view of the situation and draft a few ideas for the future.
Greece was defeated on the world scene because of not solving its problems for decades, and contrary to all expectations, it remained part of the Eurozone. Now however, the EU governments, investment funds and banks have to allow the country some breathing space for a period of at least five to eight years, or until Greece is able to regain its strength, stand on its own two feet, feed its population and nurse the sick. The national debt is predicted to be at 171% of GDP at the end of 2015 under economic growth at the rate of 2.9%! We all know that ‘Rome was destroyed in one day’, so please imagine what has occurred in five years of accelerated poverty! And those who continue to insist that Greece’s debt is its own internal problem, had better be reminded that what happened in the Weimar Republic was not an internal problem of Nazi Germany, but of the whole world. Accelerated poverty should be the main issue of the following elections, not the Grexit rumours, which actually are taking place against the wishes of the majority of Greeks.
Πηγή: The Guardian, Greece’s dark present in 2015 and photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947