Although we’ve featured quite a few news reports on the impact of austerity in Greece, this report from Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer with family in Greece, via Real News Network, gives a flavor of how conditions have deteriorated, even in small towns where social ties are presumably tighter than in Athens.
More at The Real News
RNN also posted this letter from Dimitri’s sister:
Dimitri…the decline in our income and therefore in many facets of our
lives began in the fall of 2009. In our family carpentry business, we
began to go without work intermittently, but for longer and longer
stretches as time progressed. Customers who owed us large amounts of
money couldn’t pay even 5% of the balance owing on their account. Our
customers of course gave priority to the payment of bank loans they had
incurred as first-time homeowners or for the expansion of their
businesses, or worse, they gave priority to the payment of credit card
debts they had incurred in order to maintain the quality of their life,
or simply to secure the basic necessities…rent, water, electricity,
health insurance and food. Slowly, cash has became more and more scarce for our customers, and therefore for us.
In Greece, the baby boomer generation has placed tremendous emphasis on education. In a very competitive job market, Greek parents sought to equip their children to secure a job as a civil servant. For that
purpose, Greek parents commonly employed ‘frontistiria’ (or
supplementary education through tutoring) as early as the onset of
elementary school. The need to eliminate the financial burden of tutors
was one of the first signs that people were struggling to survive.
Now, in 2012, whether in a city or a village, all you see strolling the
streets is a succession of empty storefronts with rent signs and often a
deluge of unopened mail just inside the door. The few businesses that
have managed to stay open have gigantic banners proclaiming 50-70%
reductions, hoping to catch the eye of the few potential customers out
there. Walking through what used to be crowded and bustling markets now feel like a Sunday stroll through deserted urban centers.
Going to take care of business at The National Bank of Greece was once
an all-day affair…most often now, you can zip in and out in less than
5 minutes. On the other hand, the line-ups to make payments at the
Greek electrical company have become longer and longer. There you find very volatile crowds of people fighting with employees to defer payments through payment plans, or to have their electricity reconnected after having had it cut off as a result of the “haratsi,” which is a
government property tax incorporated into the electrical bill, often
quoted by legal experts as one of the many unconstitutional acts this
government has committed. What right does the electrical company have to assume the role of a tax collector, and to deprive us of electricity
when we become unable to pay the arbitrary taxes issued at the drop of a hat to generate more money for the EU and IMF?
Suicides, drug abuse, prostitution and crime have infiltrated village
life. In our village, which has slightly more than 1000 inhabitants, I
was a victim of theft by a drug addict just outside my front door. I
have been to the funerals of two friends who were murdered here in the
village by their assailants when they were unable to produce money on
demand. Other friends of ours have died of heart attacks, stressed to
the limit by debt, or worse, the loss of their cars and homes.
We, as well as many people we know, are experiencing a strained home
environment as a result of financial difficulties. Now we call our
customers to beg them on a regular basis to pay something, anything,
toward the debts they owe us, because food or heat in the dead of winter
has become an issue for us. We now rely on help from family members.
People we know go to retirees in their families to ask for contributions
from their meager pensions. We are all now at the mercy of anyone with
money at hand to help our family survive, let alone aspire to a better
At almost 52, when your stamina and endurance have started to wither
away, life feels like a chore. However, children have a way of making
you ‘plug’ back into life, even if it’s only to focus on just one more
This post originally appeared at naked capitalism and is posted with permission.