Greeks outraged by government’s sellout for quick cash
Greece is now set to receive 12 billion euro in additional rescue cash from the EU, after parliament passed a vote on how to implement tough new austerity measures. However, the move sent thousands of angry protestors on to the streets of Athens.
Greeks face 28 billion euros in cuts, to be implemented over the next five years. EU officials have welcomed the plan, saying it will help the country get back onto a path of recovery.
But the public are not at all happy with plans for the sale of many Greek assets the government pushes ahead. The message from a furious public is: “Greece is not for sale.”
Greeks are incredibly proud of their heritage, but many people feel that the privatization proposals would simply be stripping Greece of its assets.
Potentially up for grabs for EU lenders are Greek banks, water companies, and train operators among many others. A 16-per cent stake in the large telecommunications company OTE is also up for sale.
With OTE there’s been a continuous crime for the past 20 years. They’ve sold off our company piece by piece and now we only own a small percentage – but that small stake is extremely important to the Greek people. But they want to sell even that,” Panagiotis Kourtras, president of the Federation of OTE Employees, says.
When they were in opposition, the present government heavily opposed the sale of shares of the largest telecommunications provider in Greece.
“They called it a national crime when the previous government sold shares. Now they want to do the same. And sell the shares now at a low price. We don’t think we’ll see investment or any development of OTE, we think the only thing others will care about is profit, profit, profit,” Kourtras said.
But continuous calls from the public to refuse the aggressive privatization proposals set forth by the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have seemingly gone unheard.
“The pressure from the European Union is tremendous. We could talk about blackmail against the Greek government,” says Petros Papaconstantinou, Columnist at the Athens daily newspaper Kathimerini.
Critics have argued that those backing the bailout are acting out of self-interest, keeping profits private, with the losses socialized.
“We’ve seen this before. It’s nothing new. It’s not like Greeks have to stretch back far in history to figure this out. They can look at Latin America and countries all over the world where the IMF has come and plundered the nation for corporate consolidation – that’s what this is,” financial journalist Demetri Kofinas said.
Prime Minister Papandreou spoke of avoiding the countries collapse at all cost, but many are now asking just how high a price he is willing to pay.
“If someone dies, if something very tragic occurs, that’s going to be a catalyst I think for the fall of this government,” Kofinas believes.
The EU has stated firmly there is no plan B to the austerity measures being enacted. But as fury builds on the streets, it might be time they thought of one.
Greece: a step back from the brink - for now
The fifth aid tranche approved by eurozone finance ministers has bought Greece some short-term relief. But with sobering prospects of a second three-year financial rescue plan, the country may find itself on the brink of default once again.
After a two-hour conference call on Saturday, the 17 eurozone ministers said they would release their part of the financial support to Greece – 8.7 billion euros – by July 15, after the decision is confirmed by the IMF. The remaining part of 12-billion-euro tranche will come from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is expected to approve its current contribution, 3.3. billion euros, in the coming days.
The 12-billion-euro loan, expected as part of a 110-billion-euro bailout package agreed upon last year, will reach the country following two votes in the Greek parliament on new tough austerity measures, including radical tax increases, pay cuts and privatizations.
Greeks now face 28 billion euros in cuts, to be implemented over the next five years.
The government will also push ahead its plans for the sale of many Greek assets. Potentially up for grabs for EU lenders are Greek banks, water companies, and train operators among many others. A 16-per cent stake in the large telecommunications company OTE is also up for sale.
Without the loans, the Greek government was at risk of defaulting on its loans on July 15.
EU officials have welcomed the plan, saying it will help the country get back on to a path of recovery. The eurozone finance ministers even decided not to meet in person for an extra meeting in Luxemburg on July 3, but limited themselves to a conference call, in a gesture of approval of the new austerity package and acknowledgement that the tranche is now purely a technical procedure.
But the public are not at all happy with the government pushes ahead.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Greece on Wednesday in a 24-hour general strike in protest against the government's agreeing to the austerity measures required as a pre-condition for the fifth tranche.
But experts say the Greek crisis is far from over yet. The European bailout plan will keep Greece afloat for only several more months before it again has to confront the prospect of default or a radical restructuring of its debt.
According to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, the trio of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF has prepared an unpromising report on the country’s state of economy.
The report states that Greece will be unable to return to borrowing money on the capital markets in 2012 as previously foreseen, and a further massive bailout will be needed soon.
European Union leaders are now putting forward the details of the second financing program for Greece. It will come on top of the existing 110-billion-euro plan agreed with the eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund last year. The EU officials said finding of the second financial plan would be both from public and a substantial, but voluntary, contribution of private investors via Greek debt rollover. The external financing for the country could be about 80-90 billion euros, while Greece is expected to raise another 30 billion euros from privatization.
The eurozone finance ministers are set to finalize the details of the program at a meeting on July 11, but there are reports it may be delayed until September.