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Enough austerity? Greece after 5 years of belt tightening

Enough austerity? Greece after 5 years of belt tightening
The EU and its financial institutions have been pushing an austerity policy on Greece for the last five years. High unemployment, more taxes, billions of euros fleeing, and an increase in suicides mean Greeks on Sunday have to decide if enough is enough.

What happened?

In January, the left-wing Syriza party led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised to end years of austerity measures without leaving the eurozone.

What went wrong?

Greek debt negotiations have been fruitless for five months. Creditors wanted economic reforms in return for bailout money, but Syriza refused to budge on key election promises.

RT shows you what has happened to the Greek economy during the era of austerity.

1 - “In five years in Greece, we have cut pensions by 44 percent, reduced private sector pay by 32 percent, destroyed the job market, smashed the welfare state, bled employees and the middle class dry with taxes, and reached one and a half million unemployed in a country with an active population of six million,” Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with an Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

A banner hangs in front of the parliament during a pro-government rally calling on Greece's European and International Monetary creditors to soften their stance in the cash-for-reforms talks in Athens, June 17, 2015. (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

2 - Greek GDP per capita has fallen to $21,700 in 2014 from $26,900 in 2010 in current US dollars, World Bank data suggests.

3 - Youth unemployment has reached more than 50 percent. Around 55 percent of those unemployed are under 35, according to UK entrepreneurship charity Endeavour.

Efi Larentzaki (bottom C), an unemployed mother of four, takes part with three of her children in an anti-austerity pro-government demonstration in front of the parliament in Athens February 15, 2015. (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis )

4 - 44.8 percent of Greek pensioners are living below the poverty line. Their pensions amount to no more than €665 and have been cut 44-48 percent since 2010.

Pensioners struggle to enter a National Bank branch to receive part of their pension in Iraklio on the island of Crete, Greece, July 2, 2015. (Reuters / Stefanos Rapanis )

5 - The Greek suicide rate jumped 35 percent during the peak of the crisis in 2011 and 2012. Almost 80 percent of the suicides were men. Greece’s rate used to be the lowest in Europe, but it soared during the crisis.

READ MORE: Austerity to blame for 35% suicide surge in Greece – research

A mourner (R) places a Greek flag at the spot where a man committed suicide at central Syntagma square in Athens, April 5, 2012.(Reuters / John Kolesidis )

6 - The Bank of England has warned that the Greek debt crisis is a threat to the UK’s financial stability and could trigger wider problems for financial markets. The market value of European banks shrunk by more than €50 billion on July 29, when the Greek government closed banks across the country and limited daily cash withdrawals to €60.

READ MORE: Greece closes banks, imposes capital controls

Reuters / Stefan Wermuth