“Greek society and the economy cannot afford any more measures,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Monday. There is no room or need for any more across-the-board wage and pension cuts, he declared.
The representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, however, are deaf to his warnings. They are demanding additional belt-tightening measures, including more layoffs. Otherwise, they threaten to hold up 1 billion euros in already overdue bailout money that Greece needs without further delay.
Between pay cuts, public spending cuts and tax increases, Greeks have seen their disposable income slashed by roughly 40 percent since 2008, and most of them were not well-off to begin with. Cuts already in place have reduced Greece’s budget deficit, exclusive of interest payments, from 15 percent in 2008 to near zero this year.
These austerity measures have resulted in a 25 percent cut in national output, 28 percent unemployment, slashes in health care and other public services, and rising poverty. And with the economy shrinking, Greece’s debt burden, as a percentage of annual output, is more than 20 percent higher today than it was in 2010 when the European Union bailout program began.
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