Recent events have painted a picture of Greece and its people as being greedy and lazy good for nothings, but is this a case of a pot calling the kettle black? Go back three years and the UK banking system was in meltdown, people were up to their necks in debt, maxing out on credit cards as if there was no tomorrow. That was never the case in Greece. It's a cash society so there was never the same level of personal debt and banks didn't have to be bailed out by tax payers either. Yes, the Greek government did borrow more than it should - but then so too did the UK. All countries have to borrow money in its daily business and it's confidence that enables them to secure realistic rates of interest. Unfortunately the markets turned on Greece and raised their lending costs so much that compound interest inflated borrowing repayments beyond sustainable levels.
In a desperate fight to contain the country's solvency the Greek government introduced a whole raft of measures to reduce sovereign debt.
Tax thresholds were slashed from £10,300 down to £4,300. VAT was raised to an eye watering 23%. All pensions above £860 a month were cut by 20%. Public sector wages were chopped by 20%, while employees of state-owned enterprises had wages decimated by 30%. 'Solidarity' payments of 1%-5% of annual salaries were deducted in lump sums. If you owned a car with an engine size of over 3 litres you had to pay a one off 'Solidarity' payment of approximately £450 and the latest move has been the introduction of a property tax. Based on the size and location of your house, typically on a two bedroom Snobby, this amounts to around £250 per year, levied on the electric bill.
All this and a typical salary in Greece is only around £1,100 per month. Not only that, but unemployment stands at 18% and that does not include the forthcoming wholesale reduction in public sector employment.
As with all things in the world of politics, it's the man in the street who ends up standing there in disbelief, having to pay for the mess created by politicians. While for the most part austerity measures do not really effect ex-pats, for Greeks times are hard - and will probably remain so for some time to come as the government grapples to stimulate growth, while a battered and bruised population is forced to dig ever deeper into their pockets to help fund it.
After all said and done, for Brits wondering whether to make that move to the sun, don't believe what the UK media says about Greece. Far better to listen to someone who actually lives there! Crete is still a safe place to live, the weather is wonderful, the crime rate is low and your UK pension buys you a far better lifestyle compared to the doom and gloom of having to live in the UK.
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