Evita Nolka is a Greek political scientist, holder of a MSc. in Strategic Studies and International Politics from the University of Macedonia. Her current research interests include the European financial crisis in the Mediterranean region.
Sticking with Austerity
For six years now Greece has lived under unprecedented austerity policies demanded by its lenders and accepted by a succession of governments. The social and political reality created by austerity was sharply shown by two events that occurred on the same day in October.
First, a report on poverty and social exclusion in Greece was released by Eurostat, the European statistical service, indicating that, in 2014, 22.1% of the population lived in conditions of poverty, 21.5% were severely materially deprived, while 17.2% lived in families with very low work intensity. Altogether, 36% of the population faced one or more of these terrible conditions. The percentage was 7.9% higher than in 2008.
Second, the Greek parliament approved a new piece of legislation imposing further austerity measures as demanded by its creditors – primarily the EU and the IMF – to meet the terms of Greece’s recent, third, bailout agreement. The new package involves cutting 14.32bn euros of public spending, while raising 14.09bn euros in taxes over the next five years. The measures will affect primarily private-owned businesses, homeowners and employees close to retirement.
Austerity policies were first adopted in 2010 as a “solution” to the economic crisis that burst out in 2009-10. Severe cuts in public spending, deep reductions in wages and pensions, enormous tax increases, and a stripping back of labor protections have sought – presumably – to stabilize the economy and gain the confidence of financial markets.
In practice the measures have plunged the Greek economy into a prolonged recession that has had the disastrous social implications outlined by Eurostat. Unfortunately, the current Greek government, formed by the left-wing SYRIZA party, appears determined to keep the country on the same path.
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