Tag Archives: Greece

Greece’s Newly Austere Society: Worsening Quality of Life, Increased HIV & Suicide, Crumbling Health Care

Health care workers have joined the chorus against austerity for some time. Like all other requests for the policy to stop, though, their wishes go unanswered.

Health care workers have joined the chorus against austerity for some time. Like all other requests for the policy to stop, though, their wishes go unanswered.

In the same vain as the story about TB making a comeback in the state of Florida, helped along by cuts to medical facility funding in the name of austerity, we would be remiss to not revisit austerity’s live and furthest along test bed: Greece.

Last October, The Lancet released a report on how quality of life has deteriorated in Greece as austerity’s grip continued to tighten on the country. With universal health care a basic right for every citizen of Greece, the demands from wealthier European nations that Greece gut all social spending without care to the rammifications means that said health care system was savaged by the demands. Those negative effects of less care and worsening quality available to the average Greek citizen made its way down through society with tragic, yet very predictable results.

For all the information that follows, keep in mind this was back when Greece’s unemployment was “only” 16.3% (start of 2011 4th quarter) – it has since increased to 22.6% for the 2nd quarter of 2012. GDP annual growth rates declined by another 5% in Q4 2011, 7.5% in Q1 2012, and 6.5% in Q2 2012. The economic situation in Greece has not only worsened since the time of this report, it has done so dramatically.

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Greek Elections Round 2: Patient Ready For More Austerity; Nazis Still Around

Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party is the new Prime Minister of Greece after an electoral victory and successful coalition formation with two other parties.

Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party is the new Prime Minister of Greece after an electoral victory and successful coalition formation with two other parties.

The 17th of June came and went, and since the financial world still seems to exist, it is apparent that the Greek elections did not go as “disastrously” as possible. Actually the result, much like the one in May, wasn’t that conclusive. The difference this time was that with the threat of a Greek exit from the Euro or “Grexit” on the before-the-end-of-the-month horizon, parties that were previously known for bowing their heads to European pressures and accepting austerity terms decided that they would once again bow their heads, accept austerity terms, but also promised to try extra hard to get in a “please don’t hit me so hard” to those dictating the terms.

This little bit of wiggle room helped Greece realize a new majority coalition, as the center-right New Democracy party hooked up with the austerity-backing socialist PASOK and the relatively new slightly-left-of-left-of-center DIMAR party. On the outside looking in includes the anti-austerity Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the right wing Independent Greeks, the Communist Party, and the neo-Nazis. The neo-Nazis occupy 18 seats (↓3) of the new parliament, or 6% of the government. Heartwarming.

Ironically the parties that wound up sitting down at the table to form this new government could have done the exact same thing last time around. Coalition partners totaled 168 of 300 seats, but this time that number was slightly bumped to 179. While that leaves a “so why’d we have to go through all that” taste in the mouth, one thing is for sure – the political leanings of those sitting across the table from European negotiators as more details of austerity continue to be hashed out are really not going to look that much different from the pols who were there before this year’s elections and all the way down to this place. The new boss same as the old boss indeed.

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Greece & Eurozone Eye 17 June Day of Destiny

Alexis Tsipras - leader of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left. Sticking to campaign promises to not give in to the demands of austerity, his party could emerge as the big winner in June elections - which could begin Greece's exit from the Euro currency.

Alexis Tsipras – leader of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left. Sticking to campaign promises to not give in to the demands of austerity, his party could emerge as the big winner in June elections – which could begin Greece's exit from the Euro currency.

With a smattering of elected MPs in Greece that contained sizable amounts of Communists and Neo-Nazis unable to form a coalition government, Greece is currently in the hands of a caretaker administration and new elections have been called for the 17th of June. The issues are the same, the stakes are about where they were previously, and the whole of Europe is watching. As the election result could have wide-ranging ramifications directly on other countries that use the Euro as their currency, it is worth rehashing what is going on there one more time.

After the shocking-yet-expected results of the 6 May poll in Greece, it became quickly apparent that the country would not be able to gain a governing coalition to serve and continue to either lead the country down the road of austerity to receive bailout funds, or to leave the Euro currency entirely and see what’s next. While anti-austerity votes constituted an outright majority of the number of votes cast in the election, the distribution among the political parties is what caused the post-election coalition issues. Austerity-supporting parties New Democracy (ND) and Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) managed to earn 149 seats in the new government with anti-austerity parties making up the other 151. Unfortunately for the sake of political unity 52 of those seats came from the old-line Communists and their friends in the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and another 21 came from the Neo-Nazis – the Golden Dawn (CHA) party.

It’s hard to form a coalition government with a party that, among other things, would like to seal their borders with mines as a means of immigration control.

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Greeks Fire Government, Extremists Fill The Void

Greek voters took to the polls over the weekend to politically punish everyone who had anything to do with the austerity agreements that have devastated the country.

Greek voters took to the polls over the weekend to politically punish everyone who had anything to do with the austerity agreements that have devastated the country.

In addition to the end of the conservatives’ run at the top of French politics, in local and national elections across the continent the refrain was repatitive and loud: we don’t want austerity, we want growth. No where were these calls the loudest than in the country where the effects of austerity have been the sharpest and most severe: Greece.

So severe has austerity been there, and so turned off by the prospect of even more the population is, that in weekend elections the population basically threw out en-masse the entire apparatus that supported the austerity regime, and filled the void with quite literally anyone else.

The neo-Nazi party in Greece now holds 21 seats in the Hellenic Parliament. Financial crisis collateral damage.

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Austerity Claims Sarkozy’s Presidency

Socialist Francois Hollande celebrates his 6 May victory in the French Presidential Election.

Socialist François Hollande celebrates his 6 May victory in the French Presidential Election.

In the aftermath of The Great Recession’s initial shock years of 2008 and 2009, new political realities have slowly continued to dawn in the western world. Many in power at the time of the collapse sought to blunt the effects of an economic downward spiral by reducing spending instead of increasing borrowing – convinced that even in a rapidly cooling economy, stimulus as it had been seen in previous economic crisis, was no longer the solution.

Over the years to follow, the supposed nay-sayers were proven correct time and time again – cuts in government spending and the implementation of austerity-based policies led to weaker economic growth, higher unemployment, and a lack of optimism for the future. As terms of governments, prime ministers, and presidents have come up during these austerity years a number have found their selves voted out of office in favor of regimes who think cutting government to the bone isn’t the end all cure for a flailing economy.

Introduce to this new dynamic now the case of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He will become the former President on the 15th of May, having just been defeated by Socialist candidate François Hollande. The defeat of Mr. Sarkozy brings to an end seventeen years of Conservative rule in France – first from the right-wing “Rally for the Republic” party of former President Jacques Chirac, and more recently under the banner of Mr. Sarkozy’s right-centrist “Union for a Popular Movement”. This will be the first time that the French left will have control of the Presidency during the age of the European Union – which could have potentially far-reaching ramifications for that organization’s current role in implementing austerity on weaker members with no other choice for economic stability.
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Greece Gets New Bailout, Offers Some Public Sector Workers Negative Wages

Unemployment almost tripling in four years, the stock market in an 85% death dive, and more austerity on the way, the situation for Greece continues to look hopeless at best.

Unemployment almost tripling in four years, the stock market in an 85% death dive, and more austerity on the way, the situation for Greece continues to look hopeless at best.

The austerity expiernment continues in Greece with progressively worse results. The latest chapter in this multi-year disaster was announced to the Greek people earlier this week, as Euro-backing countries had agreed to send Greece another €130 billion in loans to stave off a potential default by the end of March – a potential default that would probably see Greece ejected from the Euro currency, triggering a hyper-inflation environment there and shaking the foundation of the rest of the Euro countries, potentially leading to a disintegration of the currency zone itself.

In essence, Greece agreed to keep the Euro alive a bit longer.

The debt payments coming up at the end of March that need to be made to avoid a default, by the way, are primarily to European banks and European countries. Of the roughly €340 billion in total Greek debt out there €40 billion is held by France, €24 billion by Germany, and just over €10 billion by the United Kingdom. Those three countries make up over 20% of all the outstanding debt. Another 21% is held by the European Central Bank & International Monetary Fund. The ECB and IMF are two of the major powers dictating the amounts and terms of the loans to Greece, which will in turn be used to pay them back for money they loaned earlier.

Re-read the last couple sentences a few times until it makes sense.

Now, what sort of terms have been dictated to the Greeks, as part of participating in this wild debt game?

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Greece Gripped By Fresh Austerity, Riots

Sign of the times: Greek riot police, running out of tear gas, resort to tossing protesters' rocks back at them during an Athens riot on Sunday.

Sign of the times: Greek riot police, running out of tear gas, resort to tossing protesters' rocks back at them during an Athens riot on Sunday.

Shortly after midnight local time this morning, the Greek parliament passed a highly controversial new austerity bill by a 199 – 74 margin. The vote came after a day that saw 100,000 people march through the streets of Athens by daylight, descending into riot-filled chaos by nightfall. Perhaps a sign of the times for just how cash-strapped the country really is – riot police resorted to throwing stones back at protesters that were tossed their way as forces ran out of tear gas amid pleas for reinforcements.

On its economic death bed since the middle of 2010, Greece has managed to stay afloat through emergency loans and financial measures by other members of the European Union – spearheaded by the efforts of Germany. The danger of letting Greece fail could potentially be a full collapse of the entire Eurozone currency, which could usher in a severe recession that many countries will spend the rest of this decade recovering from. Each round of bailout money allocated to Greece has only been able to come after new promises to deeper and deeper cuts and more robust austerity programs. The latest round of funding that will prevent a March bankruptcy for the country is $170 billion, and came for the price of 20% public sector job cuts, a 22% minimum wage cut, and a “liberalization” of labor laws – making it easier to fire people – weakening the power of unions.

Having suffered under austerity cuts for almost two years running now, Greeks once more resorted to rioting as a last measure of protest since no other peaceful route – including elections – can seem to stop the cycle of Europe offering Greece money at gunpoint, and the country having no choice but to accept or face potential relegation to a third world country if they were forced to reintroduce their own currency once again.

Political upheavals continued before and after the vote – the week prior seeing the departure of six members of the Greek cabinet, and some 40 MPs expelled from their parties for failing to fall in line and support the passage of this bill.

In addition to protesting the bill, austerity, and a rapidly declining standard of living, Greeks directed a significant amount of anger toward Germany:

“We’ve fought several times for liberation,  but this slavery is worse than any other,” said Stella Papafagou, 82, pulling down a surgical mask worn over her mouth to keep out tear gas being fired by the police to push back  protesters  from Parliament. “This is worse than the ’40s,” she said, referring to the Nazi occupation.

“This time the government is following the Germans’ orders,” she said. “I would prefer to die with dignity than with my head bent down.”

Germany, being the economic powerhouse of the European Union – and one of the last healthy economies left standing after the 2008 crash, has been taking a more active role in stepping in to ‘save’ Greece. Germany has been in a position to dictate the terms on which the country will be allowed to economically survive and remain on the Euro, as the alternative world of a Euro collapse would also spell significant trouble for even their mighty economy.

S&P Takes Hatchet to Europe, Germany Last Shining Light

The value of the Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar has fallen by 15% since May of 2011.

The value of the Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar has fallen by 15% since May of 2011.

After markets closed in the Americas for the end of the week, the rating agency Standard & Poors downgraded the ratings of nine European countries: Austria, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Austria and France find their selves down from the sterling AAA rating to AA+ – where the United States was cut to after the conclusion of the apocalyptic-for-no-good-reason debt ceiling ‘debate’. A few small European economies continue to maintain the highest possible rating: Finland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The last country of any economic significance to be left unscathed as far as economic ratings are concerned is Europe’s central powerhouse – Germany.

While the S&P downgrades may be tantamount to issuing a tornado warning after one’s house has been swept away, it is still a rather important sign post on a pathway to reality – that reality being it is becoming much more difficult for Europe to continue to operate the spread-the-debt shell game when the headwind continues to be just so strong. The downgrade of France is significant as along with Germany it was one of the two towers of support for massive bailout and rescue funds that are designed to help the smaller perimeter countries – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, etc., that ultimately may be the key to saving the Euro as a strong and functional currency in the decades to come.

That the toll is finally starting to be exacted on France confirms to Germany and to its people the truth that they have been assuming for quite some time now – it’s going to be on them to orchestrate the salvation of the Euro. Increasingly though, Euro-skepticism has taken off in popularity in Germany and there have been rumors of dropping the Euro and bring back the deutschmark. While that would be great for Germany in the long run, in theory, it would be disastrous for the continent in the near term. The threat to the remaining Euro using countries of hyperinflation would set in, and an orderly transition would be difficult to execute, to say the very least.

Assuming the leadership position of the continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used the rate cut as an opportunity to remind everyone there’s a long way to go to solving Europe’s debt problems:

“The decision confirms my conviction that we in Europe still have a long road ahead of us before the confidence of investors is restored,” she said at a televised news conference in the north German city of Kiel, where her conservative party’s leadership was meeting.

“But I think it can be seen that we have set off with determination along this road (to) a stable currency, solid finances and sustainable growth,” she added.

Merkel stressed the importance of a new treaty enshrining tougher fiscal rules, for which Germany has pushed hard.

Most European Union leaders agreed in early December to draw up the pact, and Merkel has said the pact could be signed as early as the end of this month, and at the beginning of March at the latest.

“We are now called upon … to implement quickly the fiscal pact and implement it decisively — without trying to water it down everywhere,” Merkel said.

The “watering down” is what is being pushed for by the countries it is designed to “help”, because that help will ultimately come at the cost of massive forced austerity in the smaller countries at the expense of continuing to receive the monies of the more powerful European economies. We may have probably long since passed the point where the choice for such countries will be either accept austerity, or gamble in the world of a post-Euro continent, and the innumerable amount of uncertainties that would entail.

Also worth mentioning: the country at the leading edge of the plunge into economic abyss, Greece, saw talks break down on Friday on how to advert an eventual catastrophic meltdown of that country, and perhaps the Eurozone itself.

Newsbyte: Syria Protest Violence, Greece Nears Government Collapse, Antarctic Birthing New Iceberg

Hello & welcome to newsbyte. This will be my attempt to hit on a couple of the bigger stories of the day and attempt to make sense of it all, as much as brevity allows.

Inside this issue:

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Austerity for the poor to cover the crimes of the rich doesn’t go over well

Protesters in Marseille, France, hold smoke grenades during a recent protest.

Protesters in Marseille, France, hold smoke grenades during a recent protest.

The effects of the 2008 Great Recession that have rippled out from America and circled the globe continue to be felt internationally to this day.

This past week the nation of France, especially the larger cities, has been rocked by demonstrations that are perhaps the largest and most widely supported since 1995‘s demonstrations against efforts to cut social safety-net programs.

The demonstrations from that time had a very different catalyst however. There were economic causes that sent things over the edge (planned budget cuts to social services in order to reduce France’s annual deficit as a percentage of its GDP in order to be compliant to become a Euro member nation) but there were social causes as well (attacks on women’s rights, the right to abortion, pay freezes, and a general right-wing policy that ran afoul of many of the country’s socialists and trade unions).

This year’s cause?  Austerity for the poor to cover the excesses of the rich.

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