Unemployed, debt-weary Greeks view eurozone bailout with skepticism

In a nation plagued by long-standing unemployment and a mountain of debt, some Greeks are cautious to celebrate the credit lifeline thrown to them by EU governments on June 16. Others, however, see the gesture as 'the beginning of the end to the Greek drama.' 

Petros Giannakouris/AP
A man walks past wallets designed as euro banknotes, outside a kiosk in central Athens, Friday, June 16, 2017. Eurozone countries bestowed a credit lifeline worth 8.5 billion euros to Greece on Thursday, but some citizens wonder whether the bailout will bring lasting relief.

Subdued by three bailouts, record high unemployment and a maelstrom of taxes, Greeks were in no mood to party on Friday, June 16, 2017, at news of a last-gasp deal pulling them from the brink of a financial abyss. Again.

Eurozone governments threw indebted Greece another credit lifeline worth 8.5 billion euros on Thursday, offered further clarity on a roadmap to possible debt relief and the International Monetary Fund said it might join a bailout program after sitting on the fence for two years.

"What's the big deal? Is it going to change the real problem of more than a million unemployed Greeks?" said Maria Papadia, jobless for four years.

"Do they understand the pain when you can't find a decent job for so long and your measly unemployment benefit runs out after 12 months?"

Greece's unemployment rate – pumped up by years of austerity demanded by the lenders – is still running above 23 percent, with youth unemployment around 45 percent.

Taking a drubbing in opinion polls, leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the deal was a "decisive step" towards the country emerging from the debilitating crisis which has pushed more of a third of the population into poverty, and turned thousands of Greeks into economic migrants.

His finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, declared, "There is now light at the end of the tunnel."

A pro-government newspaper, Avgi, called it "The beginning of the end to the Greek drama," saying that the euro zone's s decision forms a strong basis for Greece to leave its bailouts behind from August next year.

Greece has had their bailouts since 2010 and came close in 2015 to crashing out of the eurozone.

No debt relief

Center-right Eleftheros Typos daily was less upbeat, saying the closure of the country's bailout review, which led to pension cuts and higher taxes, did not bring any substantive benefit other than the disbursement of the next loan tranche.

"Debt relief is put off for the summer of 2018 while the country's inclusion in the ECB's quantitative easing program was not secured," it said, referring to the European Central Bank's bond-buying scheme,

The mood on the streets of Athens on Friday was also more subdued. "I think the climate could change, not immediately though," said Dimitris Kokkotos.

In a nation battered by unemployment where elderly pensioners are called to support their jobless offspring, discussion on whether or when the country might be given relief to taper a mountain of debt reaching 180 percent of output was of secondary importance.

And the anger remains over what is widely seen as too stringent demands by lenders that have driven the country into poverty.

"I'm fed up of being fooled. Its nerve wracking," said Mary Koutra. "Lenders have put us in a snake pit ... they just want slaves, not individuals displaying initiative, or dignity." 

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