Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

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Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby alkis21 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:17 pm

I don't how much you guys know about the current financial situation in my country. You've all heard that Greece has monetary problems and had to resort to the European Union and the IMF for funds. I don't want to talk about macroeconomics, even if I did I lack the necessary knowledge. I want to attempt to explain to you what the current situation is for the average Greek person.

Try to imagine what your life would be if you made less money every month, and you had no idea for how long this would go on or whether it would stop before you end up with hardly enough to eat. This is what happens to us in plain terms.

Every month that goes by, there is new tax, or a tax that is already in existence is increased. Then another month goes by and the tax is increased again. Then the next month they say that you must pay a levy because I don't know, you have a car or something, they hardly bother with excuses any more. Then they come up with a new tax. They decreased the salaries in the public sector and then two months later they decreased them again. They even decreased the PENSIONS which is really the worse that can happen; my father's pension was decreased by 11,000 EU in the past two years and he's not exactly a youngster who can get a job to supplement his income. Many of my friends in the private sector have been fired, or they were forced to accept severe salary cuts. Unemployment is off the roof as more business go bankrupt every day. People with degrees are looking for a job, ANY job there is and can't find one.

Universities, schools, hospitals and other public institutions are forced to operate on minimum funds. A few months ago my mother was hospitalized and we had to bring sheets, supplies and sometimes even pills ourselves to her because they didn't have enough for everyone. The school year began a week ago and the ministry had no money to pay for children's books.

Personally I am blessed with a good job that operates mostly abroad and therefore is not dependent of the Greek economy. I even managed to get my wife hired in the same organization a couple of weeks ago, she'd been searching for a job for months to no avail. But nothing is certain for us these days and all the measures are decreasing my income exponentially anyway. I can't even begin to think what will happen if I lose my job like others did.

The worst thing about the situation is that there doesn't seem to be any hope. We keep reading that no matter how hard the measures the government takes, not only does the country not get the necessary revenue, we still have a deficit. So the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank increase the pressure for harder measures and another month goes by and there are new taxes, new layoffs, new decreases in salaries. European media seem to focus on whether Greece will manage to avoid bankruptcy or not; sure it would be nice if we did, but even if we do, what will be the cost? Greek people are suffering and all they hear is that they're going to suffer some more indefinitely. I wish someone could say to us "hang in there for 5 more years and things will get better" but there is no such indication. Or I wish someone could tell me that Greece WILL go bankrupt for sure, therefore I need to remove the pennies I have saved in the bank and flee. Nothing seems certain, nothing at all seems optimistic.

Will this nightmare ever end?
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby manicx » Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:58 pm

Words cannot describe the situation here. I am having problems coping with this crap and no matter how much I am trying to focus on positive things (if any) I feel weaker day after day. I just hope that nobody will ever be in a similar situation as we do here.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Steve Camber » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:47 pm

Wow guys, I was wondering what the situation was for you but it's worse than I thought.

Even with the UK being outside the euro-zone due to other close links we're not immune to it's problems. Let's hope things can turn around.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby gdh82 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:11 pm

I'm sure most of us hear of the bail-out plans and the austerity measures but your post really brings home the human impact of it all. :( Like you say, it's not as if this approach seems to solving the problem either, which must be so demoralising. Every time I hear commentators on the subject, it seems not a matter of 'if' but of 'when' Greece defaults on its debt, I'm sorry to say. Hope you guys and your country somehow finds a way through all this.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby alkis21 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:54 pm

Remember, remember, the 4th and the 3rd of November
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Freshmaker » Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:58 pm

Don't know where to begin guys. Don't even know what to say at all. I'm just amazed how much it's possible to fuck it up. I'm really confused, as to how a beautiful country like greece, with all it's got going for it, can go so wrong. I just wish you all the best of luck. And if you ever feel like fleeing, try Norway, it doesn't snow all the time, at least not in the southern parts. :) I know I'm gonna run back home if Denmark should plumeth the way Greece has, and Italy looks like it might...
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby manicx » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 am

The problem here is that we are experiencing a new form of colonization. I recently watched a documentary, "The Weight of Chains". This is an superb documentary that shows something that shocked me. All Former Yugoslavia countries have enormously increased their debt, they get loans to repay loans, local market is sold to foreign companies, unemployment is rising, local products are more expensive than foreign ones meaning loss of competitiveness.

It all reminded Greece to me. Although I will never say that Greek economy was decent (it is crap and we know that), what happens today is an attempt to sell everything in the 'hope' that we will be saved. The telecommunications group that I am working for was sold to DT, same thing will happen with several companies and I don't see anything 'bright' coming. Unemployment rises, wages fall, people can't cope with basic things. I put a huge effort to buy a flat and this year I am asked to pay almost 600 euros as a special tax (Alkis posted a link) and another 400 as a special tax that was not included originally from the tax agency. Both are extras. At the same time, I had no pay rise for 4 years and this year I had 1.5% increased taxes on my wage (hence less money coming on my hand) and rumors are another 5-10% from the company due to them not doing well (the whole group). This will lead in giving more than half my wage to mortgage (a lot more actually). We have to live under extreme financial pressure on a monthly basis considering increases in heating petrol price (reaching 1.40€ from 0.90€ last year), VAT to 23%, gas at 1.70€, increased prices in medicine and other first need things.

This is not a rant, but this is the second year in a row that I can't even travel for 'leisure' in a fun event like the KO2 WC. If we are limited to working 10 hours a day (some foreign politicians have the tendency to say we are 'lazy' here) to get a wage enough to buy me the food and pay the mortgage but give me absolutely NOTHING else, no life outside my flat and the office, I honestly hope that no one, no one will ever find his life changing like that in just 2 years. The problem is not the change, the problem is that there are no prospects.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Freshmaker » Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:15 am

To have salt in your wounds guys; yesterday the current situation with Greece was the one of the major stories in the tv-news. From what I understand it's not a question of IF Greece goes bankrupt, but when. EU is trying desperately to keep Greece going for "as long as possible" (they seem to think they maaaay keep it up about 2 more years), in order to stabilise the other Euro-economies (Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc), before Greece goes down. Inevitably, this means; Greece will go down.
What it means that Greece will go bankurpt, I don't know, but it doesn't sound good.

I guess my advice would be to get the fuck out, at least if you know a trade that will make you interesting in other countries. And I guess I'd look either to Roberts new hometown, or north.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Torchiador » Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:48 am

In Italy the situation doesn't seem better, practically speaking Italian pay 60% already in tax, plus 21% VAT (from 20 to 21 in the last few days). I don't smoke but I know here a packet of cigarette cost around 5 euro and unleaded benzine is 1,60 rising every day.
cuts to pension and basically every other aspect described by Alkis could be reflected here.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Rodolfo » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:44 am

My dear Spain, as you may know, is not much better. Unemployement is terribly high, and those who keep their jobs spend as little as possible, because of the fear of losing their jobs, therefore sales are low and there is no way of creating new jobs. This is of course a single aspect of a much more complex situation. We, however, have some little hope ahead: elections in november, new government, and perhaps some fresh air that will help if only in spirit.

It is very sad to read about our Greek friends. When talking about Greece, it is no use hiding it, in the rest of the world (even here! which is a joke considering our own situation) we often say that they deserve it. That is what you get when you spend more than what you earn. But again, this may be an unfair simplification. After reading about it, and I remember for example some link that Alkis posted in facebook, we get the idea of a country where nobody paid taxes and everybody got pensions. Although that cannot be completely real, it shows that there were some nasty and insane social environement where being honest would be lame, or even unaffordable (most of that happens here too, specially in the south where I live). And now, the system exploded and everyone agrees that sacrifices will be necessary, but everyone wants other people and not themselves to do those sacrifices.

I only expect that we will all learn the lesson. In Spain we reformed the Constitution to forbid budget deficit. But that solution has a lot to do with my political point of view, and some people (actually lots of millions) think that it is the other way round, and that the Administration must keep on printing money and paying pensions no matter what. Our nations will survive, one way or the other. But the price will be terrible for millions of people.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby Freshmaker » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:58 am

Very good post Rodolfo. On a very sad and difficult matter.

I was thinking yesterday, that from what I see, the only solution, is that all people understand (and live) that we can not just think about ourselves. We have to take care of our fellow man as well.
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby alkis21 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:55 am

gdh82 wrote:Every time I hear commentators on the subject, it seems not a matter of 'if' but of 'when' Greece defaults on its debt, I'm sorry to say. Hope you guys and your country somehow finds a way through all this.


Freshmaker wrote:From what I understand it's not a question of IF Greece goes bankrupt, but when. EU is trying desperately to keep Greece going for "as long as possible" (they seem to think they maaaay keep it up about 2 more years), in order to stabilise the other Euro-economies (Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc), before Greece goes down. Inevitably, this means; Greece will go down.
What it means that Greece will go bankurpt, I don't know, but it doesn't sound good.


As I keep saying I'm no expert, economics on such a scale sounded Greek to me (haha) not so long ago and I'm not much wiser these days either. Having said that, I have been following foreign fiscal media pretty closely for two years now and it's my impression that the Europeans are going to prevent Greece's bankruptcy at any cost. According to the most reliable analysis I've read, the consequences on the European Union would be dire if Greece went belly up, and furthermore there is the need to protect German (mostly) investments in our country. Yes many rash estimations that are largely based on nasty rumors spread by speculators who would benefit from such a scenario speak of bankruptcy. But based on what I read I do believe we're going to survive - it's the "at any cost" that worries me.

Rodolfo wrote:It is very sad to read about our Greek friends. When talking about Greece, it is no use hiding it, in the rest of the world (even here! which is a joke considering our own situation) we often say that they deserve it. That is what you get when you spend more than what you earn. But again, this may be an unfair simplification. After reading about it, and I remember for example some link that Alkis posted in facebook, we get the idea of a country where nobody paid taxes and everybody got pensions.


Yes this is a very popular and in many cases correct notion. Our Deputy Prime Minister even went as far as loosely proclaiming that "we all spent it together". It is true that after the end of the military dictatorship in 1973 Greece entered a long period of large scale corruption which everyone understood but was mostly interested in benefiting from than correcting, and it was a period we ultimately never escaped. Every government watched the funds (which were from foreign loans anyway) shrink but never revealed the ugly truth to the public; that the money would end very soon. Instead they were more interested in turning Greece into a nation of public servants who worked as less as possible for as much money as possible; it bought them more time in power.

But you have to take a minute to wonder who "they" are in the phrase "they deserve it". Take my father for instance: He's been working since the age of 22 on an extremely dangerous field, put more overtime than regular hours that was never paid, didn't ever accept a single penny "under the table" like so many before and after him in his position did, never cheated on his taxes and today at the age of 64 he watches his pension shrink and is wondering for how long he will be able to support his chronically ill wife. How do you reckon he feels when he hears that phrase? One could argue that we are all guilty because even those of us who never did anything illegal, we have a brother, or a cousin, or a friend who was cheating the country out of its money and never said a word. The difference is that you can be guilty and starving or guilty and owning a beach house in every island.

One of the most unbearable things is the unfairness of the measures. It's a question of taking as much as possible from as many as possible, without exceptions or any reason involved. Take the real estate law Nikos was talking about earlier, for example. He has to pay a levy based on the square meters of the apartment he still pays a loan for, and that levy is solely based on the square meters of the property. I own an apartment too, a bigger one than the one I live in but it's in the worst neighborhood of Athens. As a result, I rent it out for peanuts. Nevertheless, a doctor who makes 20 times more money than I do will be called to pay the same sum as me for an apartment of the same size, even if it's in the most expensive suburb!
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Re: Greece: Will this nightmare ever end?

Postby alkis21 » Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:30 am

Let me just say one more thing guys, and I would like your opinion on this if possible, in addition to everything else that goes wrong I can't shake a feeling of deep shame. :( I feel like I'm living in the armpit of Europe and I feel embarrassed towards all of you foreign friends of mine. I've always believed that corruption was a big problem in my country, but I honestly believed that the majority of our politicians were well intentioned (albeit incompetent). I was shocked when I discovered how deeply the corruption ran. We cheated our way into the European Union by presenting false numbers, how low was that? And now the entire union is in trouble because of our fraud. Furthermore (and that makes me even more ashamed), I'm living among idiots who keep proclaiming that "we don't owe anything to anyone" and believe that the way out of this situation is to go on continuous strikes and marches, demanding that the politicians and the IMF "go away". They don't have an alternative solution in mind, they just want the problem to "go away". Honestly guys, I may be alone in this but in my line of work I deal with foreigners every day and I feel deeply ashamed to be Greek. Can you imagine how bad this must feel? I feel like you all think less of us and are perfectly entitled to do so.

Having said that, in addition to the valid reasons you have to be angry at us, I need to state that the media of your countries also give you some false reasons daily. I keep reading that the European media portray the Greek workers as people who work very few hours per week, get absurdly high salaries and retire at a very young age. Although all this may be true for a very small part of the public sector, it is completely inaccurate for the vast majority of the workforce. I want to set the record straight on that and you don't have to take my word for it, just take a look at the tables from Eurostat:

Hours worked per week of full-time employment

Average age at which employed persons started receiving a retirement pension - by sex and main financial incentive to stay at work

Average age at which not employed persons started receiving a retirement pension - by sex and main reason for retirement or early retirement

Minimum wages


These tables should demonstrate that Greeks work more hours than the European average, retire after the age of 60 and although the minimum wage does not seem extremely low you have to take under consideration that we rarely venture far from it even after many years of employment. An engineer with 10 years of experience in France earns a salary that's not even comparable to the minimum wage. A Greek plumber may earn more than I do if he has enough customers.
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