A July 4, 2015 AFP article Crying Greek pensioner: the story behind the poignant photo reproted that 77-year-old retiree Giorgos Chatzifotiadis had queued up at three banks in Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki on Friday in the hope of withdrawing a pension on behalf of his wife, but all in vain. In the outside of a bank, he openly cried in despair with his savings book and identity card on the floor.
He told AFP that he had broken down because he “cannot stand to see my country in this distress”.“That's why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems.”
The report attached photos that old retiree was crying made me tearful and think a lot. I think of other reports.
The report attached a photo of Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras, his haggard and worried eyes made me a sense of sadness. Why, once a cradles of human civilization, the great Greek, has descended into a national beggar in begging for help.
The Government is the reliance and the hope of their citizen. However, that almost bankrupted government of Greece has no ability to fulfill its holy obligations to meet the reliance and hope of their citizen.
It said that the economy of Greece was devastated by World War II, and the high levels of economic growth that followed in the 1950s to 70s are dubbed the Greek economic miracle with high levels of GDP growth above the Eurozone average, snd second only to Japan's during the same period.
The facts have proved that the Greek people are wise and industrious, which is sufficient to build national prosperity to live an affluent life. Why did they come to such a tragic situation.
The biggest problem of Capitalism is that people inborn instinct driven free market economy promotes some individual Rich while the Government is too Poor to fulfill some functions as Government should be.
The biggest problem of Democracy is that irrational commitment-driven elected government has lost the function as the State Apparatus in favor of enforcing the society toward rational long-term development path, due to that is a process of hurting the interest of a minority for the sake of vast majority.
Speaking to here, I think of my long question regarding democracy, it is in general, rather than for Greece.
It said that as earlier as 507 B.C., the Athenian leader Cleisthenes introduced a political system of democracy, today it is much admired world widely.
However, there are rare people question that those who eagerly consume too much time and effort to have obtained the favor of voters, whether have time and interest in depth study of difficult social and economic problems. The Government composed of such people, whether is able to rationally formulate right policies in favor of national destiny.
The trouble is that there few voters have the ability to consider the long-term development of the country, the pursuit of long-term national benefits, in most cases, at the expense of short-term interests of some people. The vast majority of the people can only share with the fruits, but, lack of vision for sharing to explore that how to achieve it. As a pride of democracy that people who are eligibility to vote all can run campaign with no basic prerequisites in ensuring the quality of the candidates. Such an irrational rules, let those who have the high quality for rationally governing society to stay at arm's length.
July 02, 2015, the article Greek tragedy caused by welfare populism said that: “Internally, the biggest cause of the crisis was Greek politicians` populist policies that did not take state finances into consideration and the public sector`s incompetency and inefficiency. Worse yet, chronic corruption and national pursuit of today`s happiness at the expense of tomorrow caused the catastrophe. Greece has no one else to blame, as it has gone bankrupt by resorting to reckless fiscal spending without a solid manufacturing basis.”
The current problem of Greece is the result of a long accumulation, and current government is just withstanding and resolving the destined consequences.
Despite that Greece's plight is caused due to the sovereign debt crisis that seem mainly in some European countries, however, the factors that caused the crisis are also existing in Canada, only in more or less, due to the similar inborn defects in economic and political structures.
The tragedy what is taking place in Greece is a mirror for Canadians. We must try to mitigate or eliminate the bad influence of those adverse factors.
Distressed Greek pensioner, Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, sits on the ground outside a national bank branch in Thessaloniki PHOTO: AFP
THESSALONIKI, GREECE: Retiree Giorgos Chatzifotiadis had queued up at three banks in Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki on Friday in the hope of withdrawing a pension on behalf of his wife, but all in vain.
The 77-year-old told AFP that he had broken down because he “cannot stand to see my country in this distress”.
“That’s why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems,” Chatzifotiadis said.
The image of him sitting outside the bank, openly crying in despair with his savings book and identity card on the floor, was captured by an AFP photographer illustrating how ordinary Greeks are suffering during the country’s debt crisis.
Athens had imposed capital controls and shut all banks since Monday to stem a haemorrhage of cash, but on Wednesday allowed some branches to reopen for three days so retirees who have no bank cards could withdraw their pensions — capped at 120 euros.
Recounting how he had gone from bank to bank in a futile attempt to collect his wife’s pension, Chatzifotiadis said when he was told at the fourth “that I could not get the money, I just collapsed”.
Both he and his wife, like many Greeks in the north of the country, had spent several years in Germany where he “worked very hard” in a coal mine and later a foundry.
And it is to Berlin, which is being blamed by many in Greece for its hardline stance in demanding the government impose more austerity measures for fresh international aid, that Chatzifotiadis is sending his wife’s pension.
“I see my fellow citizens begging for a few cents to buy bread. I see more and more suicides. I am a sensitive person. I cannot stand to see my country in this situation,” he said.
“Europe and Greece have made mistakes. We must find a solution,” he added.
But Chatzifotiadis feels he can do little to change the situation, and he is not even sure if he would be able to vote at Sunday’s referendum on whether to accept international creditors’ bailout conditions.
European leaders have warned that a ‘No’ vote would also mean no to the eurozone.
Pointing out that the polling station is 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, Chatzifotiadis said: “I have no money to go there, unless perhaps if my children would take me in their car.”
Greek Prostitution Soars By 150% As Youth Unempoyment Hits 75% In Some Areas
With Greece suffering the biggest economic depression in decades, all so a few rich men can preserve their wealth and not have their EUR-denominated savings wiped out (even if the alternative means finally being able to rebalance externally using the Drachma instead of forcing internal rebalancing via unemployment and plunging wages), it was only a matter of time before we found out just how humiliating the conversion of the entire economy to a "gray", non-tax paying one would be for the citizens of Greece.
As the NYT reports, in just the past two years, the numbers of Greeks engaging in prostitution as a last course source of income has more than doubled: according to the National Center for Social Research, the number of people selling sex has surged 150 percent in the last two years.
Furthermore, with every business in which there is exploding "competition" and rich client scarcity, it is not just any prostitution, but very deflationary prostitution:
“Five euros only, just 5 euros,” whispered Maria, a young prostitute with sunken cheeks and bedraggled hair, as she pitched herself forward from the shadows of a graffiti-riddled alley in central Athens on a recent weeknight.
Many prostitutes have been selling their services for as little as 10 to 15 euros, a price that has shrunk along with the income of clients afflicted by the crisis. Many more prostitutes are taking greater health risks by having unprotected sex, which sells for a premium. Still more are subject to violence and rape.
Now a new menace has arisen: a type of crystal methamphetamine called shisha, after the Turkish water pipe, but otherwise known as poor man’s cocaine, brewed from barbiturates and other ingredients including alcohol, chlorine and even battery acid.
And with a surge in prostitution come the drugs, and the danger of an epidemic of blood-transmitted diseases, like HIV:
A hit of shisha, concocted in makeshift laboratories around Athens, costs 3 to 4 euros. Doses come in the form of a 0.01-gram ball, leaving many users reaching for hits throughout the day. They include prostitutes, whom Mr. Tzortzinis photographed in a seedy central neighborhood of Athens called Omonia, next to a large police station.
Shisha is most often smoked. But it is increasingly being taken intravenously; because of the caustic chemicals it contains, a rising number of users are winding up in the emergency room. Health experts say the injections are also adding to an alarming rise in H.I.V. cases around Greece, which surged more than 50 percent last year from 2011 as more people turn to narcotics.
For Mr. Tzortzinis, who grew up in the area, seeing women give themselves for as little as 5 euros underscores one of the many horrors of Greece’s drawn-out crisis.
Unfortunately for the country which is terrified to just say no to Europe due to the indoctrinated dread of what would happen if it left the Eurozone, this is only the beginning as the problem is far deeper, and it goes to the root of everything: an entire generation going to waste.
But while the Greek still soaring unemployment rate is no surprise to anyone, it is the youth unemployment that is the problem. And asthe Telegraph reports, in some areas of Greece, youth unemployment has now hit a inconceivable 75%.
Western Macedonia in Greece had the highest level of youth unemployment in the European Union, with the number of 16 to 24 year-olds out of work jumping to 72.5pc in 2012 from 52.8pc in 2011, according to Eurostat. Total youth unemployment in Greece stood at 55.3pc last year, more than double the EU average of 22.9pc.
The region, located in northern Greece, has been hit hard by the economic crisis, with total unemployment rising from 12.1pc in 2007 to almost 30pc in 2012 due to de-industrialisation and the migration of labour intensive industries to neighbouring countries, where wage demands are lower.
According to a report by the European Commission in December, more than a fifth of firms stopped trading in the region between 2008 and 2011.
Europe's response to this pandemic of unemployment?
Europe's leaders have called for more action to tackle joblessness in Europe. Earlier this month, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso urged Europe's leaders to come up with "a more ambitious plan to fight youth unemployment" at a next month's EU summit.
"We must give revive hope, specially for young people," he said. "We cannot wait for long, we are all aware this is urgent."
And when hope is not enough, and when these same young people end up as prostitutes, drug addicts or, worst, infected with HIV, maybe they should also hope that a cure for the disease is somehow discovered (and which they can afford).
Why? Just so the 0.001% uberwealthy can continue to get richer and richer courtesy of a year after year of flawed monetary and fiscal policy, even as the real world around them burns.
In the 19th century, northern European nations invented a technique called “pacific blockade” to put pressure on poor countries to pay their debts. Without going to war, navies from the creditor countries would blockade a port and seize goods belonging to nationals of the debtor nation. This technique of “gunboat debt collection” fell into disuse after a 1907 treaty that limited the application of force to recover debts.
The era of the gunboat is long gone, but for many in Europe, the long-running Greek debt crisis falls into the same model: rich countries, in this case led by Germany, bullying a small country to repay its debts to European banks, who should have known better than to lend so lavishly to Athens.
After five months of fruitless negotiations, Greece is now on the brink of bankruptcy, with banks shut and people allowed to take out only ?60 (Dh244) a day from cash machines. The economy is at a standstill and there is the slight prospect that tourism will collapse as holidaymakers cancel en masse this summer.
Aside from the suffering of the Greeks, there is a deeper issue for the future of the 28-nation European Union.
It used to pride itself on being a “Europe of solidarity” where the wealthier states aided the poorer. Now in countries such as Spain, political parties are railing against the “Europe of banks” where the interests of financial institutions trump those of people.
With a referendum on Sunday called by Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister who heads the anti-austerity Syriza party, the crisis ought to be heading for a resolution. In fact, the referendum – if it goes ahead – may be another act in what has become a theatre of the absurd.
The Greek people are being asked to accept or reject the latest bailout proposal from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But this is not like ordinary referendums. The wording of the question is written in technical terms impenetrable except to officials of those institutions. The proposal has already expired and been rejected by the Greek government.
In recent days, Mr Tsipras has confused the financial world with some staggeringly mixed messages. On Tuesday he sent a conciliatory letter to the creditors, offering to accept their bailout proposal, with some amendments. Within hours he was calling the creditors “blackmailers” and “sirens of destruction” and appealing for a resounding No vote on Sunday to reject the proposal that he had so recently appeared willing to accept.
The Greek government is portraying the vote as a way to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the German government. As for Berlin, it hopes to see Mr Tsipras lose the vote and have to resign.
Opinions differ on what motivates Mr Tsipras. Is he out of his depth and ignorant of how business is done in the EU? Or does he actually want to quit the euro zone, which would restore to Greece some of the financial sovereignty it lost when it joined the single currency?
Amid the confusion, three things are clear. First, the Greeks can never repay all their debts, not even in the rosiest economic scenarios. There will have to be more debt forgiveness, which Mr Tsipras is demanding but which is currently not on offer.
Second, any country that has gone through the level of economic contraction suffered by Greece over the past eight years would produce a revolution. So the Syriza phenomenon should not be a surprise, and indeed may be repeated in other European countries.
Third, unlike in the past, there is no sense of panic in financial markets. They seem to believe that the EU can survive a Greek default, or even Greece dropping out of the euro zone.
Neither side is blameless in this crisis. Syriza has been playing the politics of the student union, failing to understand that money from the European Central Bank does not grow on trees but is ultimately provided by the European taxpayers. Finance ministers, who must sell any deal to their voters, need to be schmoozed, not spat on.
But the greatest mistake, which led to the election of Syriza in January this year, is the fault of the EU. Last year the austerity medicine seemed to be working. The then prime minister, Antonis Samaras of the conservative New Democracy party, laid plans to exit the bailout phase. But the euro-zone countries rejected his 2015 budget, demanding an extra ?2 billion of cuts. Humiliated, he called a snap general election, in which Syriza emerged as the biggest party.
It was noted in Germany at the time that Syriza made a fateful choice. It chose as its coalition partner not a centrist, pro-European party but the right-wing Independent Greeks. There was little common ground between the far left and the far right, except a preference for national sovereignty over the European project.
Suspicions have grown in Germany that Mr Tsipras is a Trojan horse inside the European project, one that has the power to crash the European edifice built on sound money. Hence Berlin’s willingness to entertain the idea of Greece dropping out of the euro zone, even at great political cost.
We cannot know how the drama will end, but it is clear that serious scars will be left on the European body politic. The EU cannot proceed with its common currency without further fiscal integration. At the moment, the recipe for integration means other euro-zone members heeding the wishes of Berlin, which is not an easy regime to live under.
Germany has been the greatest beneficiary of the euro, since the common currency has provided a vast market for its BMWs and Mercedes.
At the moment, mainstream German political debate does not acknowledge that the huge advantages it enjoys also entails some responsibilities to make sure that the peripheral countries are not forced to live in a financial straitjacket. A change of heart, or a new generation of political leaders in Germany, is required.
These are anxious times for the Greeks, who vote on Sunday whether to accept tough new austerity measures in return for more bailout funds.
The referendum will also stir anxiety among UAE expatriates with family ties in the stricken country, a planned holiday in the Greek islands or fears of further damage to their investment portfolios.
What if I am an investor in a fund with exposure to Greece?
Few expatriate investors will have direct exposure to Greek stocks, as the country’s economy makes up just 1.8 per cent of European GDP. Chris Williams, chief executive of the adviser Wealth Horizon in London, says most fund managers exited Greek stocks long ago. “Only a small minority of investors hold bonds or shares in the country,” he says.
James Thomas, a managing partner at Acuma Independent Financial Advice Expat Investments, says: “Long-term investors can afford to ignore short-term market turbulence.”
What if I like to buy stocks and bonds on the cheap?
If you are feeling brave, a 10 per cent drop in European stock markets could make now a good time to go shopping for cheap shares.
Nigel Green, the founder of the adviser Devere Group, says market volatility is set to continue no matter what happens. “There might be a temporary reprieve in the case of a yes vote, but the saga has fundamentally rocked confidence in Europe.”
Think twice before investing in bonds right now. Prices could fall sharply if the US starts raising interest rates this year.
What if I own or want to buy property in Greece?
Clare Nessling, director at the overseas mortgage specialist Conti, advises property investors to avoid Greece right now. “It is just too risky.” If Greece adopts the drachma, the subsequent devaluation might be a great time to pick up cheap property. It would be a disaster for existing owners, however, as property values would plunge but they would still have to service their mortgages.
What if I’m going to Greece?
Your tour operator or travel insurer is unlikely to give you a refund if you cancel, so you have to bear the cost yourself, Bob Atkinson at the holiday website Travelsupermarket.com says.
Check if your travel insurance will reimburse you if strikes or protests disrupt your trip or make you miss your flight home, he adds
Greece is a welcoming destination for tourists, Mr Atkinson says. “The sun is shining, resorts are open as normal and you can get big discounts on brochure prices.” Tourists are exempt from the new rule limiting the locals to withdrawing a maximum ?60 (Dh244) a day from ATMs.
But you should still take enough cash to cover your entire trip in case the crisis intensifies. Mr Atkinson adds: “Make sure your travel insurance will cover the extra cash in case of loss or theft.”
What if I am going to Cyprus – is it also affected?
Cyprus suffered its own banking crisis a couple of years ago, but is untouched by the current crisis. “Despite its close links to Greece, Cyprus is an independent country,” Mr Atkinson says.
What if I send remittances to Greece?
Think twice before sending any more remittances. Marianne Gilmore, a commercial director at the foreign exchange specialist Moneycorp, says money held in Greece could be threatened if the country is forced out of the euro zone. “This would throw the entire financial system into disarray and spark another run on the banks.”
EU deposit guarantee programmes safeguard the first ?100,000 of savings, but were not designed to cope with a full-blown banking collapse.
“And the banks may not reopen as planned on Tuesday if Greece votes no,” says Ms Gilmore.
What if I’m a coin collector – are there any Greek-image euros that might become valuable?
A Greek exit would also boost demand for the last euro coins issued by the Bank of Greece, such as the 2014 proof sets.
Elizabeth Beckford at the coin specialist Chard in the UK says: “The 2011 ?2 Europa abducted by Zeus and the 2007 ?2 Europa abducted by Zeus might also become collectable.”
Greek banks struggled on Tuesday to arrange payments to hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped pensioners who were growing frustrated over successive announcements cutting the amounts they would be allowed to withdraw.
A pensioner is squeezed as she waits outside a National Bank branch to receive part of her pension in Athens. Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters
Greece generates more questions than answers
David Zahn is the head of European fixed income, and the senior vice president of Franklin Templeton Fixed Income Group
Updated: July 2, 2015 06:05 PM
The announcement last weekend by Greece’s left wing Syriza-led government took most people by surprise: a referendum allowing the public to vote on proposals put forward by the country’s creditors effectively brought an end to negotiations between Greece and representatives of its creditors, the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF.
In our eyes, the Greek government’s approach has created additional animosity that probably was unnecessary. But what is more significant is that the ballot scheduled to take place on Sunday presents little chance of bringing the situation to a conclusion.
The initial reaction of the markets to the surprise announcement of the referendum was, in our view, quite well contained and markets seem to have remained quite relaxed. We’ve not seen massive panic so far, which I think is constructive, although I would not be surprised if some of the riskier assets underperform until fundamentals reassert themselves.
Most commentators seem to feel that the probability of “Grexit” – a Greek exit from the euro zone – has increased, particularly in light of Greece’s failure to make the ?1.6 billion (Dh6.51bn) repayment to the IMF that was due on Tuesday. But I still think that is a decision that will come down to the Greek people.
The European negotiators seem to have made it clear that if the Greek people vote “no” in the referendum – in other words, rejecting the proposals put forward by the creditor institutions – they would be voting to leave the euro zone.
On the other hand, I see a “yes” vote in some ways as more problematic. A vote in favour of the creditor institutions’ proposals would seem to signal that the Greek people do want some kind of deal, but the deal they’re voting on no longer exists – the programme on which the deal was based was allowed to expire this week after the announcement of the referendum.
Therefore, the Greek authorities would have to renegotiate. The bigger question is: Who would lead those negotiations?
The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is spending much of his political capital attempting to persuade people to vote “no.” A “yes” vote would be viewed as a rejection of Mr Tspiras’ campaign, potentially prompting his resignation.
In that eventuality, we would be looking at the possibility of the formation of a technocrat government, or some kind of new coalition, to take on fresh negotiations. Further elections would be required down the road.
So although a number of commentators are looking to the referendum this weekend to bring some answers, I think it could actually raise more questions.
Even if Greece were to leave the euro zone, its economy represents only a small percentage of the euro zone’s GDP (less than 2 per cent) and a lot of firewalls have been built in Europe to try to minimise contagion among other euro area countries.
The ECB too has taken a decisive role and continues to monitor how the current situation is affecting the monetary transmission mechanism.
As the situation develops, the ECB has a number of tools at its disposal to deploy in the event of unexpected or unwelcome turns to keep the euro zone functioning properly in the way it wants, and to maintain easy monetary policy.
The ECB could potentially bring forward some of the purchases of its quantitative easing (QE) programme; in other words, make the same amount of purchases, but make them now as opposed to over a long period of time. The ECB could possibly increase the QE programme or intensify the schedule of Outright Monetary Transactions.
Meanwhile, we recognise that while there is short-term volatility stemming from the uncertainty over Greece, the situation does present opportunities for investors. There may be bargains to be found as corporate bonds are sold off on the back of some of the negative sentiment generally.
Most importantly, we should not forget the long-term focus of our investments. The overall fundamentals in Europe haven’t changed, and remain positive in our eyes. Additionally, structural reforms in peripheral euro-zone economies such as Spain and Italy seem to us to be encouraging signals. And the central bank has demonstrated that it is willing to address potential problems that may arise from this current crisis. Over the long term, we believe opportunities should continue to emerge from Europe no matter how this situation finally plays out.
The U.S. economy will be fine even if Greece leaves the European Union.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Five years ago, a messy Greek exit from the eurozone could have ignited a global chain reaction that derailed a fragile U.S. economic recovery.
Now, the latest Greek debt drama is considered unlikely to generate more than a temporary ripple in the U.S. The biggest impact could be to persuade the Federal Reserve to hold off raising interest rates, but just a bit longer than the central bank had already planned.
A lot has changed since 2010. The vast majority of Greek debt is now in the hands of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and eurozone governments, not the private-sector banks. That will limit damage from a potential default from radiating beyond Greek borders.
“There are more ring fences to limit the reaction from default,” said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo.
The U.S., for its part, has a much stronger economy than it did in 2010. While the European Union is one of the nation's biggest trading partners, a mere 0.5% of American exports — $773 million in 2014 — head to Greece. That’s one-tenth as much as was sold to Ireland.
A much bigger threat than Greece, analysts say, is the cloudy economic picture in China. Chinese stocks have been whipsawed over the past few after an extended runup that generated talk of a bubble. The hope is that a surprise weekend cut in interest rates by the central bank can prop up the economy and stabilize the stock market.
Still, the debt crisis put pressure on U.S. stocks Monday after the left-wing Greek government broke off talks with creditors. The government has scheduled a vote on Sunday to ask voters if they support new austerity measures sought by the EU. (Read the question here.)
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks partly bounced back. The Dow rose 60 points in late-morning trades.
The tumult in financial markets, if it persists, could force the Fed to delay an increase in interest rates. The central bank had been expected to act as early as September, but an ongoing Greek crisis could unnerve American investors, businesses and consumers.
“The biggest effect [on the U.S.] would be market turmoil,” said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Capital Markets America.
On Friday, Fed Vice Chairman William Dudley on Friday called the Greek situation a “wild card.” A few weeks earlier, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, told an audience in Germany that “spillover” effects from a Greek impasse could “affect our outlook as well.”
Spillover effects could include weaker U.S. exports if an already strong dollar rises further in value and raises the cost of American goods and services. Lower exports contributed to a 0.2% decline in U.S. first-quarter growth.
The Fed’s caution should come as no surprise. The central bank wants to be absolutely certain the U.S. economy is on a stable growth path before it raises rates for the first time since 2006. Yet even though the Greek economy is a small one, there’s no guarantee a wider contagion can be contained.
“Nobody really knows where the Greek situation will end up. Nobody,” said Frank Friedman, chief financial office of Deloitte LLP, the global business-consulting firm.
Greece traditionally has had a low suicide rate, but over five years of austerity, the country has seen an increase in the number of people taking their own lives. And if the crisis gets worse, the number of suicides and other preventable deaths from lack of medical care or drugs is likely to rise. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.
GWEN IFILL: Now another look at Greece, this time how its strained economy is affecting its people.
For the first four months of 2014, the budget for Greece’s 132 hospitals was $735 million. This year, that number dropped to $50 million, a precipitous decline that has placed predictable stress on the nation’s medical system. Now psychiatrists and other medical practitioners warn that deepening poverty will lead to an increase in suicides and preventable deaths.
NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.
MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s a letter that no one should have to read. The suicide note left by 77-year-old pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas is now a treasured possession of his daughter, Emmy.
EMMY CHRISTOULAS, Daughter of Suicide Victim (through interpretor): “If one Greek was to take up a Kalashnikov, I would be the second. But since I am too old to react actively and physically, I find no other solution than that of a dignified exit before I begin searching through the garbage for my food. I believe that, one day, because the younger generation have no future, they will take up arms and hang the traitors of the nation, just as the Italians did in 1945.”
MALCOLM BRABANT: Christoulas shot himself beneath this pine tree in Athens’ Syntagma Square, where opponents urged Greek voters to reject the international austerity program in last weekend’s referendum.
One of the first on the scene was doorman Panos Kyriakopoulos
PANOS KYRIAKOPOULOS (through interpreter): Everyone who works around here was dreadfully upset, as well as those who were passing by. It was so unexpected, a man blowing out his brains in Syntagma Square. It was terrible, just terrible.
MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s been three years since the suicide, and Emmy Christoulas has come to terms with her father’s motive. Dimitris wasn’t depressed. He was a left-winger. And his death was a political act.
EMMY CHRISTOULAS (through interpreter): Look, at a personal level, the loss is always tremendous because here we are talking about a relationship which was exceptionally good, a very strong relationship throughout all the years of my life based on a really strong and rich emotional foundation.
But, yes, the fact that my father decided to break the silence of our own social suicide, of our own society doesn’t ease the pain but, it does make me proud.
MALCOLM BRABANT: This is Greece’s suicide hot line. Callers who are so depressed that they are considering killing themselves can be connected to an on-duty psychiatrist elsewhere in the country, who will attempt to convince them that life is worth living.
Since the crisis, suicides have increased by roughly 50 percent. Recently, though, numbers went down. But Aris Violatzis, chief psychologist of the Klimaka Suicide Prevention organization, warns the upward trend could return.
ARIS VIOLATZIS, Chief Psychologist, Klimaka Suicide Prevention: If things will get worse, if Greece and its partners won’t find a solution, if the other European countries, our partners won’t help the situation to become better, then what — and we have more unemployment in the future, that is going to bring probably more suicides than we already have. Now, this is something that must be taken into account by the other European countries.
MALCOLM BRABANT: The strain of austerity is everywhere. This taxi driver, who didn’t wish to be identified, developed what his doctors say is a stress-related rash after he paid nearly $200,000 for his cab and operating license, and its value went down by two-thirds.
The collapsing medical system, like the increase in suicides, are both symptoms of the impact of austerity on Greece.
DIONYSSIA MICHAELIDOU, Retiree (through interpreter): I have no insurance. I have no pension. I have nothing.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Pensioner Dionyssia Michaelidou has come with her unemployed daughter, Depsina, to Athens’ Elpis Hospital, where they know they can obtain vital medication for free.
According to the director, the hospital is currently acting illegally, because it is serving people who don’t have state medical coverage. At the start of the crisis, the hospital’s annual budget was over $20 million. Now it’s down to about $8 million.
The director, Theo Giannaros, is on a mission to save lives.
THEO GIANNAROS, Director, Elpis Hospital: With this problem, the next months, even the insured people are going to have — aren’t going to have the proper treatment. The new therapies, they are very expensive.
So, like other countries in the Balkans, if they have a very strange disease, they are getting aspirins. But aspirins cannot save their lives. So, if we don’t have any money, our treatments are going to be aspirins, or with red peppers, like in Africa, et cetera.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Isidoros Tsagas is in remission from an aggressive thoracic cancer, only because he was able to receive free medication and treatment from Elpis Hospital.
ISIDOROS TSAGAS, Cancer Patient: This hospital saved my life. Otherwise, I was dead, except for a miracle, except for the God. We are a country, a member of European Union. So, all the political governments have to care about that and have the health in first priorities.
MALCOLM BRABANT: European charities gave the hospital a mobile intensive care unit to treat patients who couldn’t leave their homes, but Greek bureaucracy prevented the ambulance from being registered, and it has not been used for 18 months.
As Greece teeters on the brink, drug supplies are running low. The pharmaceutical companies are owed more than $1 billion and haven’t been paid since December. In the past, the companies have refused to supply drugs because of unpaid debts. But for the time being, they have promised to maintain the flow of medicine.
THEO GIANNAROS: What is happening here is a crime against humanity. And for these things, some Yugoslavs, for example, in the war of Yugoslavia went to the — they have been brought to the International Court for Human Rights for crimes against humanity because they killed some hundreds. Here, some thousands are going to die or died already.
MALCOLM BRABANT: The impact of austerity on the medical system is just one of many reasons why Greeks voted to reject the European Union’s latest bailout offer and its strict conditions. The victory of the no-campaign uplifted Emmy Christoulas.
EMMY CHRISTOULAS (through interpreter): A person who has lived to the age of 77 with a collective vision, and not the egocentric, egotistical and personal way of life, and has fought many battles in especially difficult times, because Greece has been through an exceptional number of trials and tribulations throughout history, who decides not to express this vision in an egotistical way, but by sacrificing his own life to relay the message of this collective vision, we can only consider his death as a non-selfish act, and probably the most humane act of his life.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But, as Europe decides whether to cut off Greece’s financial lifeline, a symbolic act beneath an old pine tree three years ago resonates louder than ever.
For the PBS NewsHour, this is Malcolm Brabant in Athens.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The precise numbers of suicides in Greece are very hard to determine, although an estimated 12,000 Greeks have their lives since the onset of economic austerity.
Klimaka, the suicide prevention organization Malcolm visited in that report, attributes underreporting to cultural stigma and the difficulty in having a Christian funeral after a suicide in such an overwhelmingly orthodox nation.
Despair is something not to be wished on anyone, but I see a difference of degree between those now deprived of lifestyles they obtained from governments of Greece when they borrowed money they could never repay (on the one hand) and those who are now suddenly denied access totheir own moneyby a government-ordered closure of the banks to which they have entrusted it (on the other.)
The euphemism in use is "bank holiday." That's the phrase used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt when, in March 1933, he ordered all banks to shut. By radio on March 12th, he even said “I can assure you that it is safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress."
Those with funds in banks that never re-opened did not, of course, have any way to verify the validity of his assurance. Everyone, during that week, discovered that the President's solemn promises would purchase a cup of coffee only when supplemented by a nickel.
The lesson is profound: when governments get in financial trouble, make certain that all your property is under your own, immediate control. Never, ever trust a government licensed bank. And since such trouble may hit at short notice, best prepare the mattress.
For the age group mentioned in Greece's new surge in suicides, the US suicide rate is 8 times higher than its murder rate. The US is also experiencing a movement toward legalizing "assisted suicide" among the states. Maybe in Greece, this is a tragic surprise...not so incongruous in the US, merely not front-page...yet.
The U.S. has a much more diverse population. Whites commit suicide at 3 times the rate of blacks, Latinos or Asians. Perhaps those at the upper end of the socio-economic ladder cannot reconcile their fall from the top, while those at the middle or bottom shrug off economic loss and keep on keep in on.