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One year with the IMF: Young enterpreneurs’ broken dreams

Cousins Spyros,35, and Costas,29, opened their own business three years ago: An internet cafe in Thessaloniki. The business was running good. In fact, it was running excellent! The internet cafe was open 24/7. They had even had two employees. Last October Spyros and Costas started to realize the economic crisis and the effects of the IMF/EU imposed austerity measures.

The number of customers started to decline. Day in, day out, month in, month out. Their revenues from an average of 10,000-12,000 euros per month brutt dropped down to 3,000, maximum 3,500. Spyros and Costas first fired the employees. Spyros’ wife, a jobless young mother of two under-aged girls, started to work without salary at the internet cafe to keep up the 24/7 pace. The revenues kept dropping. The two young entrepreneurs hardly managed to pay rent, social security and taxes. Their income dropped to zero. Before Easter they took the tough decision. To close down the internet cafe.

They tried to take advantage of the new gambling law allowing slot machines. They thought they could sell their business, their nicely decorated internet cafe, that could be easily transformed into a neighboorly gambling paradise. The law was rejected by the government party lawmakers, the plans are being postponed. Not only for the government. A local businessman who wanted to invest in gambling had made them a good offer. It would allow them to secure their initial investment capital plus some profit. The law rejection at the parliament made the offer invalid. The businessman withdrew it uncertain about the time perspective and the possibility of a general debt restructuring and possible economic collapse.

Spyros and Costas cannot wait. To keep the internet cafe open would mean to borrow money from parents and relatives. They hate bank loans. Furthermore they see no future, no perspective, no hope.

Spyros will have to feed his wife, 32, and his two daughters 4 and 1,5 from the money he saved when the cafe was running good. Costas has cancelled his plans to get married next autumn. He won’t be to pay rent, come up for utilities and other expenses to cover the needs of a young couple. His fiance will be without job as of next June.

Spyros and Costas set sail in a sea of uncertainty. The boat has sank and now their are swimming. They hope not to get drown among the waves of austerity and no future.

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