Greece finally exits from 3rd and final bailout in historic moment

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Greek and European officials yesterday hailed the country's official exit from its third and final bailout as a historic moment – but to ordinary Greeks, austerity is here to stay.
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Greek and European officials yesterday hailed the country’s official exit from its third and final bailout as a historic moment — but to ordinary Greeks, austerity is here to stay.

“I think the bailout program finished only in paper, in practice it still exists and it will exist for many more years to come under stringent surveillance,” argued Yannis Simaressis, a 59-year-old economist.

Greece has already legislated new pension and tax break cuts for 2019 and 2020 and will remain under international supervision for several years.

The loss of a quarter of Greece’s national output over eight years, the emigration of some 300,000 of the country’s best and brightest and unemployment of around 20 percent leave little to celebrate.

“It was nightmarish,” said pensioner Theodoros Prassas, speaking of the crisis years.

“It is not only that the income was diminished, but taxes were increased. Property tax, income tax have gone up very much. The immediate taxes have increased very much. The people can’t live any longer,” he said.

Another pensioner, Theodoros Karas, said he was “in so much debt where I wake up in the morning and I don’t know where to make a plea.”

“The phone rings and I am asked to do this and that, to settle the loan, settle the debt, they say they will cut my electricity. It’s a disgrace,” Karas said.

European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici yesterday cautioned that “the reality on the ground remains difficult” but nonetheless praised the bailout exit as “historic.”

“Greece will be able to finance itself on (the financial) markets... define its own economic policies all the while following the reforms of course,” he told French radio station France Inter yesterday.

To sweeten the pill, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that Greece could start focusing on a “social state.”

“Now we have the opportunity to proceed with targeted relief, to proceed with tax reduction in 2019 and to support the social state and welfare,” he said.

Tsipras is expected to address the nation today to mark Greece regaining fiscal sovereignty and the ability to set its own economic policies.

Greek media said he would symbolically make the speech on Ithaca, the island where Odysseus returned home from the Trojan war after a 10-year voyage recounted by Greek classical poet Homer.

Shut out of bond markets after a fiscal crisis, Greece officially asked for a bailout in April 2010 from the International Monetary Fund and its eurozone partners. They granted 110 billion euros (US$126 billion) in loans to avert a financial meltdown. Two more aid packages followed.

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