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Do You Have an Idea What’s Really Going On in Greece?

Many trees make a big forest. And many puzzle pieces make a big picture. Let’s take the example of a normal day, like today: September 20th. It would  be a normal day some years ago. Let’s say in 2005. People would go to work without any problems, would do their duty and return home.  Members of the Parliament and ministers would might enjoy a prolonged vacation. Some housewife would call around to invite friends over the weekend. And she would start writing down a long shopping list although she would certainly complain about the long hours she would spend in the kitchen to prepare dishes full of delicacies for her guests.

The 20th September 2012 looks quite differently:

The morning started with the metro, the tram and the urban train on strike. 800 to 900 thousands residents of Athens forced to seek alternative ways to go to work. Those who still have work. Because, according to official data, almost one out of four Greeks have no work and no income. Most likely they also have no car.

This Thursday morning it turned out, that the majority of this privileged society group has also a car. So the people took their car to go to work. And found themselves stuck in traffic jams.

Austerity Talks

The day continued with the political leadership and the leading economic team of the country trying to ‘close’ the austerity package of 11.5 billion euro – as a Troika precondition to release the 31-billion-euro bailout tranche.

There seems to be some disagreement among the government partners on the measures, between the government and the Troika, among the Troika itself.

The measures-adding does not bring the essential result. The Troika wants saving measures of 11.5 billion euro. Greek government is currently unable to present more than 9-9.2 billion euro. Too many objections by the two junior coalition government partners PASOK and Democratic Left. Finance Minister Stournaras hinted, trance and measures may be fall shorter for the time being. And that the difference (measures of 2-2,5 billion euro) might come later together with the rest of the bailout tranche.

Austerity Package and Bailout Tranche

From these 31 billion, my neighbor or my father will see nothing. They will be spent for the recapitalisation of the banks and for outstanding state debts to private suppliers.

My father is a pensioner of 600 euro per month. He has no loan to repay, nor has he any plans to get one. Neither for private nor for commercial purposes. My father was never involved in business with the state in form of a supplier of any kind. So, he thinks he would have no gain from the bailout. However he is called to pay more taxes (1,000E for 2012 and 500E in advance for 2013). When he went to the tax office to make an arrangement, he told them, he had good chances due to two cancer operations and a recently implanted pacemaker to be a … dead taxpayer in 2013.

My neighbor is without job. He has too kids and a wife who brings home 900 euro. He doesn’t believe either, that the bailout would help to build a future for his children, as propagated by the government. In fact, the man has no hope at all. Under immense pressure by his wife and his relatives, he sought a neurologist. He diagnosed ‘depression’. The man stays home all day, he doesn’t speak, he shows no interest. Together with the prescription the doctor forbad him to watch television and definitely not the prime time news. His family is anxious about the progress of his disease. And that he might do some unexpected…

Metro workers on strike symbollically hang a metro worker


This morning of 26th September 2012, protesting policemen, firefighter and coastal guards got a taste of what thousands of protesters inhaled for two years. They got tear gassed. By their fellow colleagues from the riot police. This had never happened before. But for everything there is a first.

At the same time, seamen and metalworkers booed finance minister Yiannis Stournaras who had the genius idea to walk through the masses of anti-austerity, anti-wages-cuts protesters.

Protesting Coastal Guards in Crete {I have no idea what the banner in Spanish says}

Judicial personnel is also on a kind of ‘strike’ and refuses to takes work at home, i.e. to work overtime. And if this was not enough – hear! hear! – they want to have offices in courts and thus with computers and access to data bases! They consider, their upcoming wages cuts as against the Constitution that foresees their salaries and equivalent to those of MPs. “If our salaries were to be cut the same should happen to the MPs’ salaries,” they say -which is fully correct!

At the same time, there are the little news that make the austerity soup more spicy: for example, owners of touristic buses assigned with the transport of pupils to schools will stop their services as of tomorrow in Attica. Due to outstanding debts from the side of the state.

Health? What health?

State hospital doctors have not been paid overtime work for several months.

Employees at Alzheimer’s daily care centres have not been paid for the last six months. A meeting with the health minister ended ugly. It looks as if the minister believes that people should work without payment.

At the same time, insured patients continue to pay prescription medicine from their own pockets, as pharmacists in 18 perfectures of the country continue and will continue to boycott the national health care organisation until Sept 30/2012. 

PS A friend spent the whole Thursday morning visiting more than seven pharmacists in Piraeus to get together five different drugs for her chronic-ill mother. She didn’t. She found one drug here, two in one pharmacy and two in another. However, she can’t  use one prescription in different pharmacies. Where are the drugs?




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  1. The banner is a message to Spain, and says:

    You showed us the way.
    Thanks a lot.
    The people and security forces, together, never be defeated
    Let’s go – ΠΑΜΕ

  2. The banner in spanish:

    “You have shown us the way
    Thank you very much

    People and security bodies,
    Together, wiil never be defeated”

    Good luck

  3. thank you!

  4. I know exactly what’s going on, I have relatives there. Just a couple of days ago someone tried suicide by jumping over a balcony across from my SIL. The bailout money goes to pay the debt your politicians borrowed from banks and put back out as bribes and to pay “private companies” for goods bought on credit. That’s why there are no drugs, the private companies no longer are willing to give them on credit. Is it right and moral? Right for sure, moral depends on whether or not you think private enterprise deserves to be paid. My SIL has he same issue getting drugs and is outraged that she has to use generic. I remind her that if she lived in Canada (which she could) that she wouldn’t get free dugs until age 65 and they would be generic only. I have nothing but sympathy for the ordinary Greeks at this time.

  5. Expat living in Greece

    1 in four have no work. They obviously are not part of the traffic jam.

  6. Expat living in Greece

    I think our problem in Greece is that the 11 billion euros is exactly the amount that tax evaders owe every year. Why don’t people demonstrate against tax evasion? Thomson seems very bitter….I think that they are going to change him soon….be careful for what you wish for. I think that anyone who has anything to do with Greece this week knows exactly what is going on….at least until Sunday.

  7. yes, we have already reported about both issues (Thomsen replacement, 11 billion euro tax evasion) 🙂

  8. Expat living in Greece

    You father on his pension has no idea how a pension fund works or how state funding and services work. Without the bail-out your father will have no pension and not even a basic health service. This the problem with Greeks, everyone thinks they know everything, everyone has a conspiracy theory and nobody cares where the money will come from. In the well off countries the first question they ask is “where will the money come from?”.

  9. my father wonders what happened to his contributions he was paying for 45 years. No comment to the depressed jobless, right?

  10. Expat living in Greece

    If pharmacists and doctors accepted generic medicines then maybe the state would have money to pay them. There are many doctors who never turn up to work shouldn’t they sort out their own ranks before complaining about the state. Doctors should not accept the universal language of the “fakellaki” (for our less informed friends this is un-the-table cash in hand) which is undeclared income and is totally illegal. How is it possible that for doctors to pay huge rents in Kollinaki and declare only 2000 euros extra income per year?

  11. there are much more generic drugs in Greece than you know.

  12. Expat living in Greece

    Maybe, but do you know of any doctor or pharmacist that will give you a generic prescription?

  13. Expat living in Greece

    Neither your father or I understand how the contributions add up to a pension that is to support someone until they die. My father wonders the same thing but I dare compare UK state pensions will Greek pensions.

    In 1990 the UK pension was calculated as:
    (years/80)*(Av Salary for last 3 years)
    In Greece it numbers that are produced from the contributions are a miracle.

    As far as the depressed jobless…I only hope to god that I am not going to become one of them. Meanwhile we are still looking for a Greek lady to clean the house but the only cleaners that can be found are illegal immigrants. Even though I am an engineer I will still push trollies at the supermarket. Perhaps I am a hybrid and still have part of the English mentality and after 20 years working in Greece still cannot understand what is important to Greeks. Perhaps I am wrong and their mobile phone is no longer the most important thing to them. Like most I love Greece but I wish it could better look after it’s citizens.

  14. sure, I know: doctor and pharmacist. My mother gets at least one, since a couple of years.

  15. you posted you cleaning lady ad in the wrong newspaper. A friend offered a cleaning job (5e/h, 4h/w) and at least 80 Greek ladies apprlied within one week. The same number more or less were foreigners (legal and illegal, but also from EU countries). Surprised?

  16. Let this be a lesson for greeks. How many of them wish they could go back in time an not purchase that car you did not need or that BMW you really could not afford but had to buy it to show off to your “gitones”. Greeks discovered “credit” a few years back and dicided to live like americans, buying things they could not afford.
    I laugh at you.

  17. laughing troll, you fail to understand the problem. private debt, wich is out of controll, exploded in uk and usa, but it’s not greece problem. it’s public debt.
    but who cares, you as an ignorant would not understand it anyway

  18. Plaka, monastiraki full of people, Thanasis taverna couldn’t find a seat, and all the same everywhere in that area…. So, crisis sure, but not in many areas. I wonder how many areas are in crisis and how many are not? Any idea KTG? Also, why not just tax consumption instead of pensioners. That way people who can’t afford tavernas, boozouki etc, won’t be taxed.. From the way I see it, Greeks still living lavish lifestyles daily… Just go to Thanasis taverna on sunday and report back to me.

  19. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    I’ve seen everything with my two dump eyes: If all Athenians would drink coffee there the tables would reach to Corinth.

  20. @Giayti giaortaki, yep, like remember this movie Zardoz with Sean connery I think?, where the zombies of the first world try to go over into the second and chaos ensues. I wonder if it will happen at Thanasis as wealth meets poverty very close there.

  21. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    If the tables reach down to Mani the Giant Octopus will come to eat them all. There’s a tunnel from Seattle Sound under the continents leading to the Gate of Hades. But Greeks who believe into the Giant Octopus can use the tunnel as illegal aliens and become tribe members of the Haida.