Saturday, October 29, 2011
For Ordinary Greeks, Big Bailout Adds Up to Years of Hardship
October 29, 2011
In the fading light of a fall evening, Amarillis Visvardis waits for the day's first customer at her clothing store in this city's tony Kolonaki district. She passes the time reading a novel set in 1930s China. No one comes.
Across town, in a neighborhood scarred by drugs, a free health clinic that serves needy illegal immigrants has plenty of clients. Doctors notice something unusual about them: Many are Greeks.
Greece was promised a heap of debt relief at this week's summit of European leaders. But there is little that looks like salvation. The debt crisis has spurred searing austerity measures that will continue for years, and are likely to prolong the country's recession. Bit by bit, Greek society is being stretched, and it is popping at the seams.
The small businesses that form the core of the Greek economy—and the bedrock of the Greek middle class—are closing. The poor are becoming poorer. The fiery street protests are turning nastier. Friday, demonstrators in Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, blocked an annual military parade and jeered the Greek president, who left the scene.
"There is a feeling that things can only get worse, that we will have to live with half the money we had," says Spiros Papadopoulos, a young blogger. "What is at stake is our quality of life, and, for some, their subsistence."
Greece is the canary in the euro zone's coal mine. The bloc's prescription for a crisis spurred by overborrowing and overspending is a dose of radical fiscal rectitude, delivered fast. To regain the confidence of skittish investors, countries are being asked to rip up paternalistic policies that provided stability and comfort to legions of citizens but left the state reeling from the bill. The question is, can it be done without igniting society into revolt?
The outcome will reverberate beyond Greece's borders. A societal collapse would further distance Greece from other countries in the European Union, threatening to unravel Europe's grand postwar project of an ever-closer federation.
Posted by Yulie Foka-Kavalieraki at 9:14 AM