Tue, Jan 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Defining year ahead for debt-ridden Greece

Imminent real wage cuts and increasing taxes could result in a display of public discontent in austerity-weary Greece

By Helena Smith  /  The Guardian, ATHENS

“A lot of people — especially in the middle class — are going to find they have no salaries at all, as reductions, ranging from 15 to 20 percent, are applied retroactively,” said Kyrtsos, an opponent of the growth through austerity policies that lenders have placed as the price of further aid.

“All the measures we have been talking about for the past six months will have to be implemented and that will create all kinds of side effects. Unemployment will rise to 30 [percent]. No civilized society can function like that,” he said, referring to the budget reforms the governing coalition has been forced to draft since being elected in June.

With the country so dependent on cash handouts from foreign creditors, Samaras is aware that there is no room for relaxation.

The government is hoping that a long-delayed package of rescue loans disbursed last month will finally help energize Greece’s near-lifeless economy.

However, “the money that will be thrown into the Greek economy will take a very long time to trickle down to the people. Joblessness will continue to grow, the recession will get worse, more businesses will close. The big question will be who will survive?” said Aliki Mouriki, a sociologist at the UK’s National Centre for Social Research.

With many predicting a backlash by Greeks, there is speculation over whether the ruling alliance will last longer than the spring. An opinion poll released by the Kapa research group last week showed that 77.3 percent were unhappy with the coalition.

Last year’s double elections took the heat out of a population that long ago reached boiling point, pundits say.

“It delayed the expression of unrest, but unless people see a way out of this deplorable situation, there will be an explosion. Anger and despair are building up. The explosives are there.” Mouriki said.

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