World Economy

Greece Still Reeling From Austerity

Greece Still Reeling From AusterityGreece Still Reeling From Austerity

Greece’s creditors have concluded a first round of fresh bailout inspections to assess reforms. Even if deadlines are met, a shattered economy and battered public trust will linger behind, says Anthee Carassava.

Strangled by the worst economic crisis to ever hit a European Union member state, Greece is suddenly humming with optimism. The belief is that an escape from seven years of brutal budget cuts seems finally possible. In fact, Alexis Tsipras, the once firebrand leftist prime minister, is already trumpeting a marching Greek comeback, DW reported.

The numbers look promising. Much-needed growth is expected to top 2.4%, up from about zero last year. And the primary surplus, which excludes the cost of financing debt, is also forecast to soar, reaching an ambitious 3.6% target, helping pay down the country’s crippling debts.

But behind the veneer of a budding Greek recovery, the economy remains shattered. Business confidence is continuing to fall as public discontent grows over the government’s failed pledge to end austerity and brutal budget cuts that have squeezed household incomes by 27%, left one in four Greeks jobless and one in three businesses bankrupt.

“(Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras and his Syriza party represented the first real hope in years that we as a proud nation could claw out of the crisis,” says Leonidas, an unemployed retail manager. “But now,” he adds, refusing to divulge his surname, “they have all proven to be the worst liars and cheaters of all, pushing Greeks to a state of financial devastation which little will be able to overcome.”

“I can’t stand hearing him (Tsipras) harp on about the country’s financial turnaround. He’s either mad or oblivious to the cruel truth and reality gripping Greece.”

Indeed, high taxes, byzantine bureaucracy, policy inconsistence and corruption are among the top reasons keeping investors away, pushing Greece down to 87th place on the World Bank’s business-friendly listing. The country’s 2017 ranking is on a par with Algeria, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago.

With unemployment at over 21%, nearly 50% for under 25 year-olds, pensioners earning a steady pay cheque have become the backbone of most Greek households, during the financial crisis in Greece.

Still, successive governments have repeatedly targeted the country’s ailing pension system, sheering retirement payments and benefits by as much as 40% since the start of the crisis in 2010.

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