ATHENS (AFP): Greeks on Thursday reacted with anger and disbelief at a new wave of austerity cuts enacted to keep the country in the eurozone as a public transport strike caused road chaos in Athens.
The embattled socialist government announced pension and tax break cuts and put 30,000 state employees on temporary lay-offs after pledging to do “anything” to stay in the eurozone and unlock bankruptcy-saving EU-IMF loans.
“A merciless raid,” commented the conservative Eleftheros Typos newspaper, while pro-government Ta Nea noted that salaried staff, pensioners and civil servants had been placed on a “sacrificial altar.”Public transport workers brought the capital to a standstill on Thursday, with the support of irate taxi owners opposing a liberalisation of their sector, while teachers and municipal workers also staged walkouts.
And air traffic controllers are also holding a four-hour stoppage, forcing airlines to scrap or reschedule flights.
Greece has been struggling to convince the European Union and International Monetary Fund that it can bring its tough economic overhaul programme back onto track despite delays and targets slipping due a deeper-than-expected recession.
“Greece is being turned into a poverty house, new measures are being announced by the day and by the week,” Constantinos Michalos, head of the Athens chamber of commerce and industry, told state television NET.
“There is no compass, this government doesn’t know where it’s going,” he said.
The additional cuts have raised dissent in the ruling party with backbenchers and former ministers doubting their effectiveness after two years of recession.
The main private sector union GSEE and the Adedy syndicate reacted by calling for strikes next month against the austerity measures.