Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Greek poverty deepens during seven years of austerity

Published:Friday | May 5, 2017 | 5:00 AM
A woman passes a shopping arcade with Greek flags, where shops closed because of the crisis in central Athens.

ATHENS (AP):

Over the past seven years, austerity has left visible scars in Greece's capital.

A walk around Athens reveals more homeless people than ever despite some signs of a rosier economic outlook. Thousands of shops, mostly small businesses, are shuttered across the country. In what used to be a busy shopping arcade, closed stores are padlocked against a backdrop of hanging Greek flags.

Whole families can be seen lining up for free meals at a growing number of soup kitchens.

"Every day we feed 400 to 500 people, and this number has increased even more in the past two years," says Evangelia Konsta, organiser and sponsor of the meals offered by the Church of Greece in a run-down neighborhood in central Athens.

On Tuesday, International Monetary Fund and European negotiators bailout negotiators reached an agreement with Greece's government to continue rescue funding in return for a painful new round of cuts and higher taxes over the next three years.

High unemployment and a steady decline of living standards for most Greeks for seven consecutive years have had lasting effects.

Greece has survived on international rescue loans since 2010, granted by the IMF and other countries using the euro currency in exchange for drastic cuts in public spending and benefits. Greece is now in its third bailout.

At the end of every month, it has become a familiar sight outside banks: pensioners waiting in huge lines to collect their monthly checks. Few know how to use ATMs.

While in line, they fret over how to make ends meet after years of cuts to their earnings, worrying about more austerity being planned.

They will not have long to wait till the next round of cuts. The government on Tuesday finalised its agreement with bailout lenders to axe pensions further, starting January 1, 2019.