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Greece strikes over austerity measures

Joanna Kakissis May 11, 2011
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Greece strikes over austerity measures

Joanna Kakissis May 11, 2011
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: There are more protests and strikes on the streets of Athens today. Demonstrators are upset over the possibility the country will privatize many national interests. It’s been a year since Greece took a $150 billion bailout from its European neighbors. But even today, the country’s faces a grim economy.

Joanna Kakissis is with us now from central Athens, where the protests are taking place. Good morning Joanna.

JOANNA KAKISSIS: Good morning Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: Why is Greece still struggling? I mean we’re talking a year after the bailout right?

KAKISSIS: Yeah, well the country was more than $400 billion in debt. And they have a lot of work to do. The government drastically cut spending in public sector wages and pensions, and even raised taxes. It made some progress cutting the deficit by 5 percent. But the cuts stalled the economy. Unemployment is at a high of 15 percent and Greeks are anxious.

CHIOTAKIS: They’re anxious. What would privatizing state-owned businesses do, Joanna?

KAKISSIS: Well, it would raise a lot of cash — about $72 billion by 2015. The government wants to sell its stakes in three utilities, plus the Greek railway, the racetrack and the national lottery. It also wants to lease or sell unused facilities from the 2004 Olympics and the old airport. But unions are fighting it. They say the privatization would kill jobs. A few thousand demonstrators expected today and their aim is to put pressure on the government ahead an expected vote next week on the asset sales.

CHIOTAKIS: Do most Greeks feel the same way as the demonstrators in the streets now?

KAKISSIS: Well, actually no, they don’t. Most are actually very worried that the economy collapsing, and so they want to see the austerity measures bearing fruit.

CHIOTAKIS: All right, Joanna Kakissis reporting from Athens. Joanna thank you.

KAKISSIS: Thank you Steve.

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