In debt-burdened Greece, demonstrators now numbering in the thousands are continuing to march and confront police at the Greek Parliament, overlooking Syntagma square in Athens. Communist members of labor groups over the past weekend chanted “the measures are killing us!” French participation in the Athenian show of displeasure has included a puppet-like figure of Lady Justice, three meters high and operated by a concoction of sticks. Austerity measures including pensions and salaries are the subject of the demonstrations.
The austerity program, which is likely to change while remaining unacceptable to the protesting throngs, was the conception of now former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou; Papaconstantinou has been relieved of duties by Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou. Papandreou has appointed Evangelos Venizelos to the post of finance minister. The Greek prime minister includes in his new administration those who have strong opinions on the austerity matter, and criticisms of the vision of Papaconstantinou.
Greece will need a bailout package to fund itself through 2014. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund, in particular members from France and Germany, have agreed to continue funding Athens, including imbursement of a fifth installment of monies allocated in the 110 billion euro rescue package granted Greece in mid-2010. The International Monetary Fund will pay its share of that allocation in early July. The Greek government will sell off some state enterprises to buy time from international creditors. It was agreed that private creditors should be involved on a voluntary basis.
About half of citizens recently polled opt for rejection of the latest austerity package; a third of those interviewed are for approval. The Papandnreou package is expected to add 28 billiion euros to government funds, by an increase in taxes and cuts in spending. Many of the respondents agree the reforms are aimed at the poor, favoring “wealthy tax evaders and corrupt politicians.” Most economists concur that Greece is unlikely ever to have the ability to pay off the overwhelming indebtedness. Communist Party Secretary Aleka Papariga made a statement that the Greek government together with the creditors would very likely “sit together to skin the Greek people alive.”