I fear for a social explosion: Greeks can’t take any more punishment
“ After more than two decades reporting from Athens, I can only concur. For the truth – as unpalatable as it may be for the IMF, EU and European Central Bank, Greece’s “troika” of creditors – is that, far from plugging the country’s budget black holes, the harsh austerity pursued in the name of deficit-reducing goals has pushed it towards economic and social collapse. Relentless wage and pension cuts, tax rises and cost-cutting reforms have left the country a shadow of itself. In its fifth successive year of recession, Greece is a hollowed-out version of what it once was, coming apart at the seams a little more with each day. Men and women forage through rubbish bins late at night. More sleep on the streets. Last week as Eurostat, the European statistic agency, announced that poverty had engulfed more than a third of the nation, it was revealed that unemployment had also exceeded one million people, from a record 19% to 20.9% in one month.
"Nothing functions. Nobody pays anybody any more and the state is not just crumbling but in complete stasis," said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a prominent political commentator. "These guys," he said of officials in the troika of European agencies negotiating the bailout, "should really lose their jobs. They’ve miscalculated everything. I understand on Friday the police trade union called for their arrests. Well, maybe they are right!"
With the rhetoric at such levels, and none of the sacrifices having improved the situation so far – at more than 10% last year, Greece’s budget deficit was way off target – it is easy to see why, among politicians at least, there is little stomach for more. “We don’t want to turn our country into a marginalised third world state where citizens are forced to live on slave wages,” said one MP, requesting anonymity ahead of the vote. “If we go along with these measures, that is exactly what will happen.” “

I fear for a social explosion: Greeks can’t take any more punishment

After more than two decades reporting from Athens, I can only concur. For the truth – as unpalatable as it may be for the IMF, EU and European Central Bank, Greece’s “troika” of creditors – is that, far from plugging the country’s budget black holes, the harsh austerity pursued in the name of deficit-reducing goals has pushed it towards economic and social collapse. Relentless wage and pension cuts, tax rises and cost-cutting reforms have left the country a shadow of itself. In its fifth successive year of recession, Greece is a hollowed-out version of what it once was, coming apart at the seams a little more with each day. Men and women forage through rubbish bins late at night. More sleep on the streets. Last week as Eurostat, the European statistic agency, announced that poverty had engulfed more than a third of the nation, it was revealed that unemployment had also exceeded one million people, from a record 19% to 20.9% in one month.

"Nothing functions. Nobody pays anybody any more and the state is not just crumbling but in complete stasis," said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a prominent political commentator. "These guys," he said of officials in the troika of European agencies negotiating the bailout, "should really lose their jobs. They’ve miscalculated everything. I understand on Friday the police trade union called for their arrests. Well, maybe they are right!"

With the rhetoric at such levels, and none of the sacrifices having improved the situation so far – at more than 10% last year, Greece’s budget deficit was way off target – it is easy to see why, among politicians at least, there is little stomach for more. “We don’t want to turn our country into a marginalised third world state where citizens are forced to live on slave wages,” said one MP, requesting anonymity ahead of the vote. “If we go along with these measures, that is exactly what will happen.”

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