There’s been a dramatic drop in consumption of basic commodities such as bread and milk in Greece in the first months of 2017, according to the Hellenic Food Industry Federation.
It’s not hard to see why there’s such a decline under way. An increasing proportion of the Greek people can no longer afford to eat.
The supermarket sector in Greece is experiencing a deep recession ranging from 8 to 15 percent year-on-year across the board. That will likely lead to a 4 to 5 per cent decline in turnover in 2017 compared to 2016.
“The market is experiencing a much steeper decline than last year. There is a very deep recession.” So says Zeta Cheimonidou, the marketing and strategic planning director of AB Vassilopoulos, a 350 outlet chain of supermarkets in Greece.
These are the fruits of the Syriza Government’s rejection of the result of its 2015 referendum, when 61% voted against the European Union-led Troika’s brutal bailout terms.
Instead of accepting the decision of the Greek people Prime Minister Tsipras went for an accommodation with the Troika.
Since the EU and IMF declared de facto financial war on the country:
25-30% of working age Greeks are unemployed (and that’s just official numbers), well over 1 million people;
over 50% of young people are unemployed.
Only one in ten unemployed Greeks receive an unemployment benefit (€360 per month), and only for one year. 9 out of 10 get nothing.
Which means 52% of Greek households are forced to live off the pension of an elderly family member.
But 60% of Greek pensioners receive pensions below €700. 45% of pensioners live below the poverty line with pensions below €665. Pensions have been cut some 12 times already. More cuts are in the pipeline.
40% of small businesses have said they expect to close in 2017. Even if it’s just half that, imagine the number of additional jobs that will disappear.
Its no wonder Greece can’t continue to service its debt, as the IMF has realised. The IMF is now calling for debt relief, putting them at loggerheads with the EU. Never mind the worsening conditions for the Greek people, who else will provide the funds needed to keep the interest payments flowing back to the lenders?
The Greek government has caved in to the Troika’s demands for more pension cuts, and ‘deep structural reforms’ meaning more selling of state assets including its power plants, and a new assault on wages and working conditions. This can only deepen the contraction.
Never mind. Since 2008 survival of the system has been the main, and only question.
As columnist Raul Meijir puts it: in order to save itself from default/bankruptcy, the country is required to destroy its economy.
Former Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis’ latest account of his bruising attempts at negotiation – notably with Thomas Wieser, president of .the Eurogroup Working Group, in 2015 is revealing. The Eurogroup consists of representatives of the eurozone countries, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. As Varoufakis tells it, despite appeals to Wieser’s humanity, and dispensing copious amounts of alcohol, dark forces were at work in the shadows – not the least being the US National Security Council tapping phone conversations,
Having delivered the extra-parliamentary mass movement against austerity into the suffocating grip of the EU machinery, popular support for Syriza has collapsed. Now Varoufakis says:
“Social Democracy is finished, kaput, gone, It made a Faustian bargain with finance.”
Yet Varoufakis declines to draw the obvious conclusion: neoliberal capitalism in the shape of the European Union or any other form is not for turning. In reality, his EU reform movement Diem25 is a deception that is doomed to fail. It is a lesson that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would do well to heed.
Now is surely the time to chart a course beyond capitalism, politically and economically.