Hostage to Austerity
Greece has been trying to stay afloat ever since the financial crisis began in late 2009 as the government battled low growth rates, soaring inflation as well as high budget and trade deficits. That’s when the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, also known as the troika of lenders, stepped in. But that came with a price. To date the government has had to slash spending by over 75 billion euros. Education, welfare and healthcare saw deep cuts.
People took to the streets as many lost their jobs, while others saw their pensions and salaries significantly decreased. To make matters worse Greeks were expected to contribute more since taxes and the overall cost of living went up. Homelessness and suicide rates skyrocketed as people couldn’t cope with their new reality. Greeks felt betrayed by their government for allowing the situation to get to breaking point.
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It’s now 2016 and Greece has a new challenge – the refugee crisis. The country has shown great humanity to those who have lost everything despite the fact that Greeks are still suffering themselves. The Greek crisis doesn’t make international headlines the way it used to. Is it because the situation is improving or because people have lost hope that anything will change? After all, it was only a year ago when 61 percent of the population voted against the new bailout conditions proposed by the troika of lenders. How do those people who voted ‘No’ feel considering the prime minister ignored the majority and implemented even more austerity measures?
Our correspondent, who travelled to Athens in 2014 to cover the daily protests on Parliament Square, decided to visit some of the people she met two years ago and find out what they have to say about their country now and whether their lives are improving. After years of austerity and more to come, how are they coping? And if not, why are they not on the streets like before?