Greek Debt Crisis

In Greece, politicians agree on austerity deal

Stephen Beard Feb 9, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Don’t quote me on this, but there’s a debt deal in Athens. It’s not about bond payments, though, or renegotiating existing debts with the European Union or the IMF. It’s a domestic austerity package — deep budget cuts and labor market reforms, all with the aim of convincing the EU and the IMF that Greece deserves a second bailout.

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is in Athens. He’s been out on the streets all day.

Stephen Beard: Today Greece’s two main unions digested the details of the plan. And they delivered their considered response: They poured thousands of protesting workers onto the streets and called a two day national strike. Bystanders seem to support the protest.

Theodoros Tsionas says, “I feel betrayed. I have worked all my life. Now my pension’s going down. Greece is being destroyed.”

The plan includes 15,000 public sector job losses and a 22 percent cut in the minimum wage. Greece is deep in recession. Birgitta Vavasaldeh says we don’t need more austerity.

Birgitta Vavasaldeh: I don’t think it’s a solution to the problem of growth. Unless we solve the growth problem, in six months we’ll be in the same position.

But without the bailout Greece could suffer a messy default and a banking collapse. Some Athenians support the bailout plan. Pericles Sofrania says, “I think this could make things better.”

But among public sector workers like Despina Koutzoumba — whose salary last month was cut in half — there is mounting despair and anger.

Despina Koutzoumba: My daughter is 7 years old. Last year I was buying her a book every week, now I can’t do that. She asks me for a book and I can’t afford it.

Greece’s three main political parties have signed up to the bailout the plan. But implementing won’t be easy.

In Athens, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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