Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A bitter twist on the joke made in Germany about Greece selling off the islands to raise money for more loans. Like selling off wings to pay for the plane's fuel.
In a flurry of emergency policy making the new PASOK government has slashed public spending and raised taxes (petrol has gone up 30% in less than two months). Yet nothing has been said about getting the Greek economy up on its feet again.
You can't just cut costs if you want to save the country, there has to be some plan to get people back to work.
Monday, March 22, 2010
As with any story the numbers only make so much sense by themselves and often reveal little about what is happening to ordinary people. As you probably already know Greece owes 320 billion Euros and is fighting desperately with its EU partners for the right to borrow yet more. Prime minister Giorgos Papandreou has thrown down the gauntlet to Germany, France et al to come up with a loan guarantee plan before 25th March (Greek independence day, by the way and a fact not lost on the public here) saying that otherwise Athens will go to the IMF for the money.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Lydia and I had a great time this weekend relaxing and catching up on each other's news. Sometimes just doing nothing is enough and I'm not a great one for structuring a child's time with a plethora of activities. I've seen enough young people run ragged by parents who think that unless their offspring are engaged in some activity 24/7 then they've failed in bringing them up correctly.
As much as we want to give our children the best opportunities possible there is still a place for fun, contemplation and even laziness.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I'm not sure if I have a nose for trouble or it has a nose for me. Less than 24 hours after I bought a replacement for my stolen video camera I managed to get hassled for taking pictures. This is a personal best as far as new equipment is concerned as usually, it takes weeks before that happens.
Monday, March 15, 2010
A two-day photojournalism seminar featuring speakers from the U.S., Greece was held in Thessaloniki, Greece, on March 13-14, 2010. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Alexia Foundation and the American College of Thessaloniki.
The Alexia Foundation's photojournalism exhibition "Eyes on the World" opened at the same time for a month engagement at the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki.
Greek photojournalist and AP picture editor Dimitris Messinis reviewing portfolios at Alexia Foundation seminar.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Taken during the general strike in Thessaloniki, Greece. Riot police units attempted to divide the strikers' march into two, meeting fierce resistance which forced them to withdraw.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
"Greece's largest trade unions managed to bring much of the country to a halt with strikes in both the private and public sector. In the northern port city of Thessaloniki approximately 10,000 people took to the streets in protest against the government's recently announced austerity package. Thessaloniki, Greece. 07/03/2010.
Although mainly peaceful there were some clashes when riot police units attempted to split the march in two, provoking a reaction by members of the teachers' union who attempted to block the move. The police answered with tear gas but quickly withdrew after coming under a hail of rocks thrown by other demonstrators."
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
After hours of tough negotiation the Greek prime minister, Giorgos Papandreou was happy to announce the full support of US president Obama for Athens's plan to combat speculators and raise new funds on the international finance markets.
Papandreou said that the sale of the island of Crete was a small price to pay for ensuring the country's future and continued economic well-being. Whilst he anticipated that there would be some adverse public reaction, he was sure that Greeks would understand the need for sacrifices at this crucial juncture in the nation's history.
Rumours that the German Bundersband was interested in acquiring a controlling stake in Rhodes were dismissed by Greek minister for Culture and Tourism Pavlos Geroulanos as "idle speculation."
Monday, March 08, 2010
On Wednesday the Greek government announced its long awaited package of economic measures to deal with the financial crisis the country has been facing since the discovery that the previous conservative government under prime minister Kostas Karamanlis had systematically lied about the country's debt load,. At the beginning of 2009 the Greek minister for finance, Yiannis Papathanasiou confidently predicted that Athens public lending requirements would not go above 3% of GNP, a figure that gradually creeped up over the following months.
However, no one, including Greece's EU partners nor the international money markets were quite ready for the real figure of 12.3% which only came to light following the crushing defeat of New Democracy in the October general elections.
On taking power Giorgos Papandreou, like president Barack Obama immediately found himself in the middle of an economic maelstrom unprecedented in recent history. Unlike America, Greece's chronically weak economy combined with a history of fiscal deception and misinformation meant that newly elected socialist PASOK party had very little room for manouevre with state coffers empty and debt repayments looming. A situation not aided by the role of speculators who saw in Greece a way of exploiting fears about the Euro and so bet on the currency losing value.
The upshot of the crisis is that a socialist government elected on a platform of social reform and aid to the poorest is currently attempting to implement a conservative fiscal reforms which are straight out the Thatcher - Friedman play book and so achieve in five weeks that which the previous right wing administration failed to do in five years in power.
Already swingeing price hikes in the cost of petrol, VAT and and the promise of wage cuts across the board have produced a wave of strike actions and protests. And this is just the beginning. Last weeks marches were marked by violent confrontations between marchers and the riots police who, despite orders by the Minister of the Protection of the Citizen, Mihalis Chrysohoidis used tear gas to disperse those present.
In scene reminiscent of December 2008 the heart of Athens once more resembled a war zone. In addition trade unionists and left wing protesters attempted to storm the ex-ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. Like the 2008's outbreak of violence the confrontation are being fueled by a deep sense of outrage and injustice and are drawing support from a wider cross section of society. Enraged pensioners are just as likely to take part in these protests as disenfrancised youths.
As the austerity package starts to bite and the knock on effect of such a drastic change in the economy is reflected in skyrocketing unemployment then these clashes are set to increase in both size and intensity as more and more people take to the streets to voice their disagreement.Next week the country's trade unions have declared another general strike and with the work stoppages are planning public demonstrations which are likely to see a repeat of last Friday's violence.
At the heart of the protests lies the belief that while the country is indeed corrupt and that the public service is bloated and inefficient billions of euros has been siphoned off illegally and that the man in the street is being asked to pay for the folly of the local economic and political elites who have used their power to get rich at the cost of the rest of the country.
The fact that the PASOK politicians asking Greeks to make sacrifices have been repeatedly embroiled in corruption and bribery scandals has done little to convince voters to accept such painful cuts. Over the last decades members of both main parties, New Democracy and PASOK have been accused of a seemingly endless list of scandals involving corruption and influence peddling yet not one MP has ever been convicted or gone to jail. In such a climate of lawlessness where those in power seem able to float the law with impunity few have the moral stature to ask ordinary Greeks to give up so much in such a short time frame.
Although untouched by scandal personally, Prime minister Giorgos Papandreou's party is currently facing allegations that the German Siemens electronics corporation paid bribes to high ranking PASOK officials in order to win contracts for the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens.
The Games which cost three times the previous ones in Sydney provide an insight into how the present economic crisis came about. Massive cost over runs, lack of transparency over contracts and a legacy of expensive facilities which lie rotting and unused across Athens are testiment to Greece's system of crony capitalism where efficiency, cost, competion, and innovation count for very little in an economy where political favours, kick backs and bribery are the rule rather than the exception.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
In today's marches organised by the PAME trade union confederation, demonstrators shouted “Give us back our stolen money” a reference to the widerspread belief that much of the country's 300 billion euro debt as been pocketed by mainstream politicians and those with close economic ties to Greece's two main ruling parties, New Democracy and PASOK which have governed since 1974.
Riot police used tear gas and pepper spray when protesters belonging to a coalition of left wing parties and groups attempted to bring down the main gate at the entrance to the ex – ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. About a dozen of the demonstrators managed to enter the ground of the government building to stage a symbolic occupation.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
In what promises to be the opening shots in a war of attrition Greek public and private sector trade unions have taken to the streets in the country's major cities angry with the drastic cuts in pay announced by prime minister, Giorgos Papandreou yesterday. Thessaloniki, Greece 03/03/2010
The cuts in salaries combined with a rises in VAT of between 1 and 2% have angered many Greeks who believe the $420 billion debt has gone to line the pockets of the rich and that it is they who should shoulder the burden of reducing the deficit. Marching under the banner, “The plutocracy should pay” the communist controlled PAMe trade union confederation marched this today in Athens and Thessaloniki. Other actions also included an occupation of the economics ministry and the state run ET3 TV station.
On the internet Greek Twitter users could barely contain their outrage over the new economic measures which aim to fill government coffers and cut down on the bloated government budget. However there was anger over the fact that areas such as defence spending which soaks up 4.3% of GNP, a figure twice that of the UK was untouched wheras the education budget was cut by 600 million euros.
Tomorrow sees the first in a series of widespread strike actions across Greece which threaten to bring the country to a standstill.
This was second of two protests last night against the government's austerity package which has angered many here.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Today the Greek prime minister Giorgos Papndreou announced a series of emergency measures aimed at raisng government revenues and cutting costs. These have included hikes in VAT across the board extra tax on petrol, alcohol and tobacco, cuts in civil servent's pay and a freeze on pension rises.
In his address to the Greek parliament Papandreou said that the country is "at war" and that these measures are necessary to avoid the country going bankrupt.
The reaction on the internet and on the street has ranged from desperation to outrage at the seeming injustice of members of the country's pampered political elite demanding sacrifices after making such a huge mess of running the country. On hearing the measures I found myself reminded of a quote from The Crow in which Eric Draven says to a drug lord,