No upturn on the horizon for Greece
Adriene Hill: In Athens, Greeks are waking up this morning to another round of budget cuts. They protested in the streets over the weekend as the country’s parliament voted to accept a smaller government workforce and a lower minimum wage. The country is a step closer to a deal that would allow it to avoid a nasty default, but the round-after-round of cutting hasn’t been easy for the residents of the country.
For more we go now to Brady Kiesling in Athens. He’s a former U.S dipolmat who has lived in Greece for the last 12 years. Good morning.
Brady Kiesling: Good morning.
Hill: So what’s it like in Greece today?
Kiesling: I was out on my bicycle to view the wreckage. The street sweepers were pretty cheerful and everyone is busy cleaning up and life seems to be slowing returning to normal after what really were the biggest demonstrations — in the past three years, anyway.
Hill: How has the crisis more broadly affected life there?
Kiesling: Fundamentally, Greece is in a depression. Those people who have money are putting it under the mattress. Lots of people have lost their jobs. Our downstairs neighbor has lost his job, wages have been cut and we just saw in parliament, this big slice to wages in the new legislation and people are scared and they’re angry.
Hill: Where do you think Greece and the Greek economy goes from here?
Kiesling: The reason people are angry is they look at the measures, they say: yes, we cannot afford to go bankrupt; but at the same time, these measures do not offer any way out of grinding poverty for at least the next ten years. And people are afraid of that; they’re angry. They all went out in the streets last night and shouted until they were tired and it was somewhat cathartic — but they’re still angry and they’re looking for an outlet somewhere.
Hill: Now if Greece does get this bailout money, what will it mean for the regular Greek resident?
Kiesling: It will allow things to keep going at their current depressed level for the next couple for a few more months. The problem is there’s nothing on the horizon to show an upturn in the economic cycle. Tourism has done a little better; of course the pictures on television last night are not going to help that. But the structural obstacles to doing business here have not been fixed and there’s no sign that the state is going to be able to fix them — not in time to do anyone any good this year.
Hill: Now are you planning to stay in the country?
Kielsing: We’re planning to stay. My wife’s job is not exactly recession proof. She’s a therapist, her clients are highly stressed, they need therapy, but they are struggling to make ends meet. More importantly, they’re struggling to find time. Doing any business here, they spend half of their lives trying to get the people who owe them money to pay, they’re trying to get the state to pay. So doing business here is extraordinarily difficult and people do not have time to take care of themselves in the way they used to.
Hill: Brady Kiesling, thanks for your time.
Kiesling: You’re very welcome.
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