Famous for being the birth place of Western democracy, Greece now enters its fifth year of struggle under the economic crisis and finds itself on the brink of economic and social collapse.
When the global economic crisis hit, Greece was spending more than it could afford. Widespread corruption and immense tax evasion, meanwhile, left Greece exposed to a daunting crisis, which finally strangled the country. Unable to cope, Greece turned to its European partners for help.
Under pressure from its EU lenders and from the IMF, the Greek government imposed severe austerity measures which deepened its people’s woes. Tax hikes along with pension and salary cuts have affected the very fabric of the Greek society. The education and healthcare systems were dealt a huge blow with substantial budget cuts. Unemployment is on the rise with 1,000 job losses every day. According to EU statistic figures system Eurostat, an estimated 30 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line.
The austerity measures made the cost of living even more expensive for ordinary Greek people. The situation for many has become dire with little hope for a better future especially with recent statements from the minister of finance that the year 2013 is expected to see a further 4.5 percent shrinking of the economy.
People can no longer afford the same living standards they enjoyed before the austerity measures imposed on them. Katerina, a retiree residing in downtown Athens and who is now living on her reduced pension, said she can no longer buy the same food she used to and can’t even afford to pay for heating this winter.
Her account of the crisis goes even deeper. She said her neighbors, people she has known for years, are now rummaging through garbage looking for food.
With one third of the population living below the poverty line and no viable plan for a better future, depression is on the rise and suicide is up by 40 percent.
According to the Racist Violence Recording Network and Human Rights Watch, xenophobic violence has hit epic levels where there has been an increase in racially motivated violent attacks by the extremist group Golden Dawn and its sympathizers.
According to HRW the ‘attackers are rarely arrested, and police inaction is the rule.’ The neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has been gaining legitimacy even winning 18 seats in parliament in the June elections, and is considered now the 3rd most influential party in Greece with strong ties to the police.
As the country is expected to endure years of turmoil with tax hikes and spending cuts affecting mostly the working class and with unemployment on the rise, a high percentage of young employable and educated Greeks have started immigrating elsewhere for better career prospects leaving the country’s future in even more uncertainty.