September 23, 2019

Big protests in Athens as Greek general strike begins

Protesters in front of the Parliament buildings in Athens.

Around 5000 Greek police managed to fend off 20,000 anti-austerity protesters in Athens who were trying to surround the Parliament buildings.

Riot police including motorcycle officers used busses and barriers to prevent the encirclement of the Greek Parliament. At times the crowd surged at police throwing plastic bottles. Police responded with pepper spray.

As the larger portion of protesters massed in Syntagma Square outside Parliament, inside the lawmakers were debating the introduction of austerity measures measures that are needed as a condition of the European Union and IMF bailout of Greece.

In tandem with the protest, a 24-hour general strike got under way which has crippled public services across the country.

Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou and President Karolos Papoulias are in a ‘no-win’ situation.

Ordinary citizens are hurting under economic hardship but the government is having to impose more economic hardship on them to keep the economy afloat.

Nobody can blame the protesters for taking to the streets. The hope of economic prosperity with membership of the European Union has faded.

Unfortunately governments actually have to do something to promote lasting economic growth. In Greece there have been a succession of governments who have allowed an uneconomic civil service to grow out of control while businesses have struggled to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

In some mitigation for the Greeks, they have missed out on the random lolly scramble of money spinning resources like oil that the modern world needs.

But then again the Japanese managed to build up a powerful economy with little natural resources of their own.

Unfortunately for Greece and other countries like Portugal there is only more pain for the ordinary people on the way.

The richer nations have problems of their own and there is little appetite among the voters of those countries for their governments to write out big cheques for countries that on the outside don’t seem to be helping themselves very much.

It is seen by many as a sort of welfare bludging on an international scale.

On Monday night, Standard & Poor’s slashed Greece’s credit rating from B to CCC, dropping it to the very bottom of the 131 states that have a sovereign debt rating.

Being seen as a worse risk than Pakistan is not a good look for a country that once ruled the world.