The National, Jun 17, 2012
ATHENS // Greek voters could hold the fate of the world economy in their hands as they head for the polls today, but with their society on the brink of collapse many are ready to reject the harsh austerity measures imposed by the international community.
“I am one of the lucky ones: I was fired last week,” said Tasos Kostopoulos, a journalist with 25 years’ experience at one of Greece’s leading daily papers.
He had not been paid for 10 months. Now that he has been officially sacked, there is at least a chance of compensation.
“If the paper goes bankrupt, perhaps I will receive something in a year or two.”
This is what passes for good fortune in Greece today, two years after a debt crisis sent the country into a spiral of recession and unemployment – now at a record high of more than 22 per cent.
Since then, the country has been forced to accept severe austerity measures, including huge cuts in public spending, as part of an international bailout. Critics say austerity has exacerbated the downturn and brought the country to the point of social and economic collapse.
Ominous signs are everywhere. Shops are closing one after another. Adverts offering cash for gold have sprouted like weeds on every corner.
Cafes are deserted and hassled by beggars, previously a rare sight in downtown Athens. At one central station, a man in a fraying suit checks each ticket machine for loose change.