Greekonomics: make-or-break week
18 Oct, 2011 08:20
Greece faces another tough week, with a key parliamentary vote on even more belt-tightening. But angry Greeks are trying to resist the punishing cuts with strikes and sit-ins which have again ground the country to a halt.
The country is still trying to convince its creditors that it deserves more cash help to avoid going bust. But with an upcoming 48-hour general strike, a parliamentary vote and an EU summit decision, the struggle inside the country is reaching fever pitch.“It is not anymore a protest movement, it is our movement for the survival of the people,” says Errikos Finalis, a “We Won’t Pay” movement activist.The country is set once again to come to a standstill, with garbage already littering the capital as flights are grounded and public transport grinds to a halt. George Pavlopoulos from the Union of Banking Sector Employees thinks the situation in Greece is getting out of control.“The workers especially are very angry. They think their wage is decreased by around 20-30 per cent, with more and more taxes coming in the future. They don’t see any future,” Pavlopoulos says.Ongoing talks and votes and statements have worn thin with an angry public, now demanding some sustainable action to help get the country back on its feet. From the vantage points of many euro-skeptics, southern-European countries such as Greece should never have joined the single currency. Now as the crisis runs deeper, there are now calls for a radical re-think of the entire eurozone project. “Either we will have eurozone and Europe changing direction, which will mean the Central Bank acting like a serious central bank, like the Fed or the Bank of England,” according to economics professor Sakalatos Efkilidis. “The bank that would try to reduce the recession by reducing interest rates, lending to countries directly. Either we will have the governments co-operating on their fiscal policy. Or…we will have a new Marshall Plan to help the economies of the South to be able to compete within the euro, or the euro will dissolve.”It is something EU governments have been desperate to avoid, rushing to find solutions to the debt crisis, to try and hold the world economy, sinking further into a financial quagmire. Many of the measures implemented in Greece among the wage cuts and tax hikes have simply served to push the country deeper to debt. Eurozone leaders have faced increasingly harsh criticism for their continued inability to mitigate the spiraling debt crisis. As Efkilidis notes, there will not just be a “Greek Affair”: “We will have the euro collapsing under the weight of its contradictions, because the euro and the architecture around the euro was created on the assumption that there would be no crisis. They believed their own rhetoric. And now there is a crisis and they have no policy instruments or institutions, ready to be able to respond to that crisis.”Increasingly unpopular Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has once again called for solidarity. The pleas of unity coming at a time when the people and their parliament have never seemed so far apart.