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Greece to Seek Delay in Austerity Measures

  • VOA News

A man checks announcements outside an unemployment bureau in Athens, Greece, August 9, 2012.

A man checks announcements outside an unemployment bureau in Athens, Greece, August 9, 2012.

With its economy crumbling, Greece has decided to ask its European neighbors for a two-year extension to 2016 to carry out its latest austerity program.

New Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras plans to travel to Paris and Berlin next week to meet with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to present Greece's case for a delay in the spending cuts it previously had agreed to. Berlin said Wednesday it would listen to the Greek leader's plea, but remains firm in keeping to the agreement.

Greece - now in the fifth year of a severe recession and with 23 percent of its workers unemployed - has several times narrowly staved off default on its loans. But it is struggling to produce $14 billion in new spending cuts demanded by its international lenders and is faced with new debt payments next month. The country's creditors have demanded the austerity measures in exchange for release of more money from Greece's latest bailout, its second in two years.

Jobless Greek workers - like train engineer Vassilis Tsimbidis - say their plight seems hopeless.

"Because of the general crisis, the state of our sector and the end of industry in our country, I don't think there are any prospects for me beyond the Skaramangas Shipyard, in another country. Personally, if I didn't have family commitments, I would already have left for Northern Europe," said Tsimbidis.

An unemployed Athens worker, Constantinos Manolis, says any thought of building a career will have to wait.

"For starters, a job just to get by, whatever it may be. Whatever? My dreams for a career? That's difficult for now," said Manolis.

One international finance expert, Andreas Hauskrecht of the Indiana University business school, said that he thinks Greece will soon default and be the first country to leave the 17-nation euro currency union.

"I think that a default within the next three months is very likely," said the expert.

Hauskrecht says that while Greece's neighbors may have at one time been determined to help it stay in the eurozone because it is part of the European Union, the continent's economic plight has weakened European support for more aid to Greece.

"While this sounds very reasonable and very romantic, I don't think that you will find the voters to support that. We see that also in other European countries economic growth is declining rapidly. We see Europe already close to a recession and pretty sure that Europe either has already or will very soon enter recession. There is nothing to distribute in a recession and willingness to support the Greeks will further diminish," said Hauskrecht.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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