Greece passes tax hike package despite violent protests

Greek 'Indignants' protest for the fourth consecutive week against new austerity measures in front of the Greek parliament, in the central Syntagma square of Athens.


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Greece's parliament today passed a controversial austerity bill. It was a requirement for that country to get more bailout money and avoid default. Yet thousands of protesters are still on the streets of Athens, fighting with police.

Reporter Joanna Kakissis is with us from the center of the city -- Syntagma Square across from the Parliament building. Hi Joanna.


CHIOTAKIS: What were the protest like in the streets there?

KAKISSIS: Well compared to other demonstrations, the crowd today wasn't huge. The people who were there, however, were determined to stay there. They had smeared liquid Maalox -- you know, the stomach acid medicine -- on their faces to close their pores and keep the tear gas from stinging. But there was anger. Hundreds of young militants threw rocks at riot police, and police responded with lots and lots of tear gas. It was pretty hard to breathe there.

CHIOTAKIS: I can imagine. So, the parliament approved these cuts Joanna. Where does this leave us now? Does that mean the debt crisis solved now?

KAKISSIS: Well, this means that Greece won't go bankrupt next month. It has money to pay its bills for a few weeks. But that doesn't mean the debt crisis is solved by any means. Greece still owes more than $450 billion -- let's not forget. And the austerity program has worsened the recession and that's hit a lot of Greeks hard. They don't think the cycle of loans and austerity measures is going to lead anywhere. So, no, the protesters aren't going to go home.

CHIOTAKIS: They're not going to go home any time soon. Do the Greeks have any awareness of what the stock markets think of these protests? Are they surprised that the markets don't seem to be bothered by the situation?

KAKISSIS: Well, you know Greeks don't really care what the stock markets think. Many have lost their jobs and almost half of those under 30 can't even get jobs. And retirees have seen their pensions cut drastically as well. This crisis is very personal for them and they don't care whether world markets are going up or down.

CHIOTAKIS: All right. Reporter Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Joanna thank you.

KAKISSIS: Thank you Steve.


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Greece's parliament today passed a controversial austerity bill -- budget cuts that had been demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. It was a requirement for Greece to get more bailout money and avoid default. The reaction on the streets of Athens has been violent.

And reporter Joanna Kakissis was there.


Thousands came out to protest the anti-austerity measures even though many people knew lawmakers would pass the bill. But they hoped the resistance would sway the few lawmakers who were on the fence.

Many people believe the spending cuts and tax hikes have done nothing to cut Greece's massive sovereign debt. Greece is still on the verge of bankruptcy a year after the European Union and International Monetary Fund imposed the austerity measures in exchange for 110 billion euros in international bailout loans.

I talked to one 52-year-old factory worker who drove almost three hours for today's demonstration because she says everyone else is unemployed back home and she doesn't want her company to close too.

Now that the package has passed, the government faces the daunting task of implementing it. Polls show that as many as 80 percent of Greeks oppose austerity measures.

In Athens, Im Joanna Kakissis for Marketplace.


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