Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Human cost of Greek crisis

Greeks are facing severe austerity cuts because of their country's mounting debt crisis. Here, nine Greek citizens describe the effect the cuts are having on them.

Konstantinos Papaioannou
Greek language teacher and columnist

"My wife and I have been affected -- our income is down by a quarter. But all lives are affected: There is such insecurity. There's a feeling of no end in sight. No one can be assured there won't be more cuts. Many people are marginalized. Vulnerable groups are living below minimum standards: drug addicts, unemployed people and immigrants. Low-level crime is now tolerated -- this creates a climate of anger, and a loss of trust in political institutions. So the financial crisis has social and political consequences. Young people are facing 40% unemployment while pensions can be as low as €200 ($264) a month. You can't live on that."

Manos Kallimikrakis
26, call center worker from Athens

"My salary of €750 ($988) a month is being cut to €600 ($790). I don't know how I'll live on that, but I'm one of the lucky ones: I have a job and own my house without any loans, but I can't afford gas for the car and I haven't bought new clothes for two years. The future is not good -- a lot of my friends are trying to leave Greece."

Panos Papanicolaou
47, neurosurgeon from Athens

"There is a big increase in suicide levels and traffic accidents, also in people with heart and psychological problems. So there's more diseases caused by the public crisis, as well as difficulties for a big part of the population getting access to health services. The biggest problem for us is there's a shortage of medical personnel. Older personnel are retiring but they're not being replaced."

Angela Konidari
38, teacher from Lemnos

"My salary's been cut 30% from €1,300 ($1,712) to €900 ($1,186) per month. I don't eat enough, I use the heating less and I don't go out much. My students are not studying foreign languages any more or playing sports. Many faint due to malnutrition, and because the government has merged schools, class sizes are larger and it's even harder to teach the kids. Students don't have hope any more: They don't think any profession will pay their rent. Many of them think about moving abroad as they have no trust in the government. 'Aren't they educated?' a girl asked me yesterday, 'how can they not do what's right for the people?'"

Yannis Bardanis
49, surgeon from Ikaria

"I work for the public health service in the ear, nose and throat department at a hospital. My salary has been cut by 25-30%, from €4,300 ($5,664) to €3,300 ($4,347) per month. I work a 35-hour week but I'm also on call during the week. I have a wife and two children to support, and we rent a house. I support the austerity cuts because Greece has been living beyond its means. How else are we to get out of this situation? If we don't then we could go back to the times of the 1920s or '30s. But we must reduce our expenses, and not just our salaries. Why should the prime minister go to Brussels and stay in a five-star hotel?"

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