Categories: Global

Greece sells bonds, workers suffer more

If workers in the Ukraine want to see what joining the EU and borrowing from the “troika” — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission — might mean for them, they should look at Greece, Portugal or countries like Spain, which is the same size as Ukraine.

Portugal’s unemployment rate is currently at 15.3 percent after three years of contraction. The IMF forecasts that it will go to 15.8 percent, even though Portugal’s economy will grow a little over 1 percent.

In Spain, whose current unemployment rate exceeds 26 percent — over 50 percent for youth under 25 — wages have been falling over the last four years and the economy has been contracting for the last three years. The IMF forecasts that it will be at least a decade before Spain’s unemployment rate improves. (Economist, April 12)

Both Portugal and Spain have had austerity imposed as a condition for loans from the IMF and ECB, which were aimed at bailing out the banks that loaned money to those countries. This austerity has devastated the working class in both countries. Poverty, homelessness and hunger, which the U.N. calls “food insecurity,” have been on a rampage.

Greece, on the other hand, is the austerity poster child, a glaring example of what troika diktats bring. Greece made the front-page of the New York Times April 10 when it succeeded in issuing 3 billion euros (around $4.2 billion) worth of bonds yielding slightly less than 5 percent, an interest rate almost three times that of Germany.

Between the new debt Greece just acquired and the interest on its old debt, the ratio of Greece’s indebtedness to its gross domestic product will be 175 percent this fall. According to the IMF, this ratio is totally unsupportable. In the past four years the output of goods and services in the Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter, which means Greece’s economy is spiraling downward.

What this so-called “financial success” means to Greek workers is more misery. Already, the unemployment rate is 27 percent, and nearly 6 out of 10 Greek youths under 25 don’t have a job.

According to the Greek nongovernmental organization Life Line, 56 percent of all Greeks receiving a pension are starving, that is, experiencing moderate to severe hunger. The government, under the lash of the troika-imposed austerity, has slashed pensions so much that a third of all pensioners receive less than 500 euros ($700) a month, which means they can’t pay all of their rent, heating and food bills. Life Line asserts that supermarkets in Greece are the most expensive in Europe. (, Feb. 4)

Pensioners in Greece not only include seniors, but also widows and people who can’t work because of physical conditions.

Health care in Greece has been cut and cut again since the troika limited Greek government spending on health care to 6 percent of the GDP, which has been declining for the past four years. Hospitals and clinics have been closed abruptly when spending reaches the cap, and the 800,000 Greeks who have lost their unemployment benefits have also lost health care.

Hundreds of thousand of Greeks — the number is large but mostly uncounted — who still have a job get paid late or in goods instead of money. In December 2013, the major Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini quoted the union confederation GSEE’s estimate that more than 1 million salaried employees were unpaid.

Some big supermarkets are paying in kind. That caused their employees to wonder aloud if it would be possible to pay their taxes with flour and sugar.

Ukraine’s economy is far weaker than Greece’s, which means the austerity the troika would impose would be even more devastating.

G. Dunkel

Published by
G. Dunkel

Recent Posts

Biden and Shapiro attack pro-Palestinian protesters

Philadelphia So, what really happened during a pro-Palestine protest in Philadelphia on Dec. 3? According…

December 8, 2023

Oct. 7: ‘The launch of the new Palestinian revolution’

By: Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement The article below is from the Masar Badil, the…

December 8, 2023

Peruvians resist U.S.-backed coup 

This talk was given at the “One Year of Resistance against the U.S.-backed Coup to…

December 8, 2023

Major organizing drive by UAW targets non-union auto companies

The United Auto Workers union, which scored major contract gains after striking Ford, General Motors…

December 8, 2023

On the picket line

Detroit casino win  As of Dec. 2, all 4,700 striking union members at three Detroit…

December 8, 2023

Resistance to border blockades and massacres — Then and now, Israel targets Khan Younis, Rafah

As Israel broke the seven-day ceasefire and resumed its intense bombing of Gaza, two Palestinian…

December 8, 2023