Debt-laden Greece mired in anger and humiliation

Greek protesters face police in Athens, 15 Jun 11 As thousands protested outside parliament Greece was paralysed by a general strike on Wednesday

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The Greeks are being humiliated. Their frequent protests have an air of futility about them. Their fate is being decided elsewhere, by unelected officials from the EU or the IMF.

Comments at today's protests in Greece oscillate between rage and despair. One demonstrator spoke of a country "being torn to pieces".

The IMF and EU send in accountants and economists who occupy space in the finance ministry. When it comes to selling off state assets - intended to raise 50bn euros (£44bn; $72bn) - there is debate as to whether this should be overseen by a non-Greek body. It would have been the final humbling.

There were suggestions, too, that foreigners should run Greek tax collection. Those ideas may have been sidelined but the resentment has not gone away.

Some say that Greece has become a protectorate of the EU. Certainly the intervention from outside in Greece's internal affairs is unprecedented.

The Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, flies off to meetings to learn the terms of his surrender. He had promised no more cuts, but in return for Greek Bail-out II he will have to take the axe to public sector jobs.

Further spending cuts of 6.4bn euros - that was the condition set by the EU and IMF in exchange for more aid.

State assets are being sold off. The crowds shout "we won't sell!" - but that's precisely what the government has been told to do.

Partners losing patience

Many of the details of the next round of cuts are yet to be revealed. If Greece fails to meet the IMF terms then the Dutch, Germans and Finns might refuse a second bail-out.

Mr Papandreou says "we are in the middle of an ongoing battle. We will not surrender."

But increasingly the people are not with him. The polls indicate a steady decline in his support. Today the protesters wanted to stop MPs reaching the parliament building.

Perhaps in jest, but stinging nonetheless, German and European officials have spoken of Greece selling off its islands.

The pain might have been endurable if it had worked. A year after Greek Bail-out I (worth 110bn euros) Greece has seen industrial production slump by 11%. Unemployment is up to 16%. The number of Greeks out of work is up 40% from a year earlier. And the debt mountain has ballooned - heading towards 153% of GDP.

And here's the worst aspect of all of this. The Greeks are about to get another tranche of money. That will only add to the debt. And it is hard to find a serious economist who doesn't believe that the strategy is to kick the can down the road.

Default looms. Maybe not this year, but almost certainly in 2015. For European officials the hope is that by then the banks will be more resilient to take a hit. Certainly well-respected German economists don't expect to get their money back.

But in the meantime there is a human cost. The social services organisation Klimaka runs a food kitchen that feeds 3,000 people a day - many are now from the middle classes. There are 30 calls a day to its suicide line. Some, like former Prime Minister Stefanos Manos, warn of a social explosion.

And if the Greek people simply refuse to accept further austerity then default looms.

Pressure on Papandreou

How did we get here? Greece was seduced by the low interest rates that followed joining the euro. It took on too much debt. When the crash came it found itself with debts it couldn't handle. The euro has proved a disaster for Greece.

There are plenty who point a finger at Greece itself. It faked its own accounts. Wide-scale tax evasion. A rigid job market. A bloated public sector. Early retirement. There is some truth in all of those accusations, but what ordinary Greeks can't see is how the present policies offer a way out.

If it looks unlikely that George Papandreou will get his austerity measures through parliament then he might go for early elections or even gamble on a referendum.

It is still possible that there is a silent majority who support spending cuts and state privatisations. But Greece is a wounded country and popular opinion cannot be counted on.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    after all, if these humanoids who are making fun of people/nations in trouble (and even -some- try to make profit of them) are a result of this "higher" civilization, then we can certainly live without it. and for the record, we are not against the world. we are against a teeny tiny minority to whom the rest of the world is in debt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    judging from the number of your comments you seem quite concerned about our issue. maybe you can come here and lend as a hand instead of philosophizing about it. and who knows, you might as well enjoy "living on feta cheese" and the whole "back-to-nature" thingy you're predicting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.


    Maybe so but you may have to get used to living on feta cheese, Achia Clauss, olive oil, pita bread and little else.You'll be playing the lute and lyre for entertainment.Back to nature, back to the roots of democracy thousands of years ago.If you can accept that, you might as well default and tell the world to go to hell

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.


    Thank you for replying, thoughtful ghosts.



  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Yes! We will beat down the fake corrupt system that has been beating us for generations, and regain control of our future.
    Yes! We will bring true (Direct) Democracy back to our nation.
    Yes! We will default, to save ourselves from the clutches of those who want to "rescue"....their pockets.
    Yes! We won't sell our nation to anyone
    And YES hopefully along the way we will take the banksters with us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    "let the Banksters fail! The Domino's will fall and the people will be set free from slavery

    Let all our people be free!"

    But whom, pray, those free people are going to borrow money from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    487. Stevenson
    The world is a big place! Independence as a human being is fundamental - freedom of thought too, but individual 'worldviews' implies something subjective when in reality it can only be objective! A 'view' can either be wrong or right - it cannot be both! only reality will confirm which is correct! As for culture - that is another topic altogether - but there is an answer! seek it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.


    U mean that we all should ourselves with own independence of thought and different worldviews

    and what are to become of local cultures????

    :) very high toned you are ...

    The people that worry me are the ones worried about a world government ....oh noo..

    it would Never happen unless Aliens came lololol

    someone has to write LATE at nite..or early in the morning in UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    the last poem M Howard is from that movie with Glenda Jackson...:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    invested in Greece seems to go not to the people in jobs, but to who knows who? and is wasted.

    Its like the Black Hole there...with corrupted people--politicians--stealing "the people's money." Yes to jobs, no to politicians building their little criminal stashes :)

    M Howard,

    poem ..this Englishwoman is so refined,
    she has no front and no behind.

    Not you, ...:)))


  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    M Howard,

    Do you like Glenda Jackson (not the MP, but the actress)? Her movie Stevie is one of my favorites...the character and her life. Also, Elizabeth R is great....but whoa the intrigue.

    Also, Im with the moderates on this Greek tragedy. We do love ur nation for its history, and beauty, but we need accountability (we being IMF..American here) for your politicians OR

    any money

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    A lust for power, ultimately total domination, absolute obedience to demanded whim - to defeat human independence - to defeat sense, refutation of logic, overthrow of truth, the smashing up of values and of life - the triumph of unlimited un-reason -to wreck the self and manifest the omnipotent in rulers. a universe of non-fact, non-thing, non-identity. To attack the mind and its own value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    362. happythinker
    "there is no more countries; this is the new order everywhere you be; my debt is your debt ;my creditor is your creditor; nacionalities are going to be a fake; we have to be prepared for that & more to come."

    Each must make the choice - fight or accept slavery as a lifestyle for our children! Understand - it is 'I' each fights for against the bromide of 'WE'

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    480. Dave

    Look & Listen - to grasp reality of our global system it is incumbent on each to ask correct question! First premise is an error of judgement, a deception! This is not, I repeat NOT a capitalist system - how can it be? In what possible capitalist economic structure can incompetence triumph at the expense of competence? Private profit -socialised losses - What is it?

    Know truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Anyone else noticing the cracks emerging in the pillars of capitalism? Fixing the inherent problem in the system (you can't grow forever) was always going to be painful. The lack of political will in Greece and across Europe is simply making it more painful. Get ready for GFC II - Bigger Badder Meaner... coming to a country near you shortly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    478 How can you believe anything the IMF says? Or the UN or any other economic forecasters. As late as 2007 and even early 2008 the IMF said there would not be a recession. Their past record is invariably dead wrong and they certainly got it wrong that time.There are many possible events that could change the outcome drastically one way or the other, they cannot know what will happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    IMF world economy today
    The fund lowered its growth forecasts for the US for the next two years from 2.7% to 2.5% in 2011 and from 2.9% to 2.7% in 2012, and it also highlighted renewed weakness in the housing market.

    In the European countries growth has exceeded expectations.
    It raised its 2011 growth forecast for Germany to 3.2% from 2.5%F. For the eurozone as a whole to 2% from 1.6%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    472 "the implication is that people who are brown-skinned cannot be legal Americans and do not belong in this country."

    I remind you besides Supreme Court judges, Senators, and other high US officials, the President of the US is brown skinned and even the few former doubters are now convinced.

    " illegal immigrant is synonymous with Mexican"

    50,000 suspected Irish illegals in the US

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    "The average wage in the national railways earns E 60,000"
    I'd say that is the highest range, not average. I do not say that I agree with the amount, but its not what everyone in Greece gets, maybe a small minority. Please do not play the broken telephone with a random figure that you read somewhere at some point and are paraphrasing here...

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.


    " they refuse to give up anything in order to try and help ease the situation and would rather riot."

    Please let us default. We are not rioting about the austerity, just its unjust distribution to the poorer levels of society while the usual crooks (and politicians) stay unpunished. We also want to be informed about everything happening to our country, can we still have that right??


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