Kai Ryssdal: In Athens, Greece, today, what you can only call massive protests. Sometimes — judging by the sound of them — violent, too. Tens of thousands of people — some estimates had it as high as 100,000 or more — took to the streets to protest the latest dose of economic austerity. The Greek parliament has approved more cuts to pensions and wages, public sector layoffs and changes to union bargaining rules.
Among those on the streets today was Silia Vitoratou. We got her in Athens on a Skype connection. Good to have you here.
Silia Vitoratou: Good to talk to you guys.
Ryssdal: Tell me what it was like out on the streets today in Athens.
Vitoratou: You could see people of all ages, all incomes. I think the Greek society was really well-represented today in the center of Athens.
Ryssdal: Tell me a little about yourself: where do you work, what do you do?
Vitoratou: Actually, I’m a biostatistician. I am currently finishing my Ph.D on biostatistics. I work as a freelancer, as a professional statistician.
Ryssdal: And not to get too personal, but how are your finances? I mean, you know, there’s this austerity budget coming down — how’s it hitting you?
Vitoratou: The cuts are not affecting me directly as a freelancer, but the thing is, taxes are. And even though I have a very low income, that would be around 700 euros per month, more or less. And still obliged to pay taxes, as it gets 600 euros this month. Plus my insurance, my pension insurance — as you can understand, things are getting pretty difficult.
Ryssdal: What do you want the government to do, though? The money’s not there, so something has to give.
Vitoratou: OK. I’m not an expert when it comes to economics, that’s for sure. So I don’t have a print-smart solution. All I know is that they should stop austerity measures because it’s obvious — even for non-experts — that it’s not working. I’m sure that there are solutions that come up that we would like; for example, there are views to tax the rich people. They’re not properly taxed at all. They always come up with ways to avoid taxes. And what you have is the poor people having all this burden.
Ryssdal: Do you want a bailout from the European Union? Do you think you should have one?
Vitoratou: Do you think that this is working?
Ryssdal: Well, no, do you —
Vitoratou: I don’t think this is possible. I don’t think this is possible. It seems that all we are getting is more and more expensive loans, pretty unfair ones. And it’s certain that we cannot escape.
Ryssdal: Silia Vitoratou, in Athens today, where she’s been on the streets. Silia, thank you.
Vitoratou: Thank you. Um, Kai?
Vitoratou: There’s something I would like to say.
Ryssdal: Go ahead.
Vitoratou: I’ve been looking at the media and the webpages and all I can see is rioting. After standing in a corner for four hours, watching people marching in front of me, and these were pretty peaceful, please do not keep on the stereotypes about Greece and about the protests. That’s what I would like to say to you. OK?
Ryssdal: We’ll try. Silia, thank you.
Vitoratou: Thank you very much, Kai.
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