Greece has been brought to a standstill by a massive strike called by labor unions to protest to government’s austerity programs.
Most public services have been halted across the nation and the transportation system is paralyzed. Air travel has been disrupted by a four-hour strike by air traffic controllers – a damaging development for a country heavily dependent on tourist revenue.
Hospitals are operating with reduced staff, some banks are shut, and all schools are closed.
Many Greeks are enraged by the economic hardship that has been imposed upon them.
In exchange for a huge 110-billion-euro bailout from the European Union/International Monetary Fund last year, the Athens government has imposed a series of draconian fiscal measures, including wage and pension cuts, higher taxes and job losses.
We strongly protest against the unfair and harsh policies that have pushed up unemployment, widen false employment and trample on worker rights, said a statement from GSEE, the national private sector union, which, along with the public sector union ADEDY, organized the work stoppages.
Now there are growing fears that the 2010 bailout has failed to bring Greece out of a deep recession and that more external financial may be required – which would, in turn, mean even more austerity measures. Athens has not been able to reduce the huge budget deficit as quickly as hoped, while the jobless rate is now at an unsightly 15 percent.
Stephanie Flanders, the economics editor at BBC News, commented: “Greece looks less able to repay than it did a year ago - while the system as a whole looks in better shape to withstand a default.”
Meanwhile, a team of officials from the EU and IMF are currently in Athens to review the progress the country has made in meeting the terms of the bailout package. Greek officials are reportedly anxious to renegotiate the terms of that financing.
While Athens denies it needs to restructure its debt to avoid default, the bond markets strongly disagree – Greece’s borrowing costs have soared.
The current bailout expires in 2013.