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Grexit (2): Austerity, poverty and morosity persist, as brains flee the country

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   1 comment, In Series: Grexit Euro Crisis
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The Population and the IMF Are Pessimistic About the Future

Prof. James Galbraith, University of Texas: designed Plan X for Grexit
Prof. James Galbraith, University of Texas: designed Plan X for Grexit
(Image by UNCTAD, Prof. James Galbraith, Author: UNCTAD)
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We saw in the first part of this article how Greece on the 13 July 2015 EuroSummit accepted the European Council's conditions for a bailout.

Fast move forward to 13 July 2016. Where is Greece today?

After the dramatic EUCO meeting discussed in the first part, the Greek Parliament passed a series of legal packages. The Opposition went along, albeit reluctantly, because it had promoted the 'YES!' vote during the said referendum and was, therefore, stuck. But there was dissent among hard core MPs in the ruling party, SYRIZA. Tsipras swiftly eliminated from its membership the most popular and prominent ones. In order to validate the purge, he called for new legislative elections in September 2015 and thus consolidated his position, although he still needed to form a coalition with ANEL, a party, of very different political ideology than his own.

The actual results obtained so far following the 13 July 2015 Agreement are far from victorious. The banking system remains fragile, currency controls persist, making the life of businesses hard; privatisations stall; taxation both for individuals and companies is higher than in most EU states; foreign direct investment is not forthcoming, with the exception of the purchase of controlling interest in the port of Piraeus by the Chinese; consumer confidence is low; education and health services are thinning out. Only the defence sector receives substantial financial support, because of Nato's priorities in the region.

Worse, households now truly feel the pain of austerity, with unemployment remaining at high levels and retirement pensions shrinking after every new package of spending cuts is adopted.

A study published this week by the daily Kathimerini, using official data, shows that by 2018 the taxable income of 90% of taxpayers will fall to, or below 1,000 euros per month!

Those who have a taxable income are the privileged ones of the Greek society. Unemployment has slightly fallen since July 2015, from 24.84% to 24.14%. But long-term unemployment has increased from 17.10 to 18.10%, exacerbating precarity for one Greek out of six.

To make ends meet, 351,700 persons have opted for part time jobs in the period July 2015-June 2016. There were 342,400 part time workers in the previous twelve months. These occupations obviously reduce the number of unemployed in the official statistics.

Meanwhile, youth unemployment remains at insupportable levels--48.5% in July 2015, to 50.4% in June 2016.

Youth unemployment figures are, in reality, worse than they look, as there is a massive exodus of educated young men and women, who disappear from the state statistics.

In fact, the number of Greeks aged 15-64 who left the country since 2008 is 427,000. But the local population is not particularly shocked, because in every crisis the solution that was found--often promoted by their governments--has been emigration to better pastures. Since the early 1900s, more than 1,764,000 men and women have moved to other countries and continents.

Greece ranks fourth in the European Union in migration outflow as proportion of the workforce in the country, after Cyprus, Ireland and Lithuania.

Greece, however, ranks third, after Cyprus and Spain, in the percentage of young emigrants. Specifically, the outgoing Greeks, only in 2013, represented more than 2% of the total workforce of the country, while the proportion of people aged 25-39 years was over 50% of all emigrants.

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J N Couvas is an academic, journalist, and an international corporate and political adviser, specialising in Middle East and Balkan affairs. He teaches international strategy and executive leadership at universities in the region.

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