Athens (AFP) – The end to Greece’s third and final multi-billion bailout, to be set in motion Thursday, is unlikely to provide a respite from pay cuts and tax hikes, many Greeks fear.
“It’s all false, new measures will come…life is worse and will become more difficult,” says Constantinos Kavagas, a 24-year-old business graduate handing out flyers in central Athens.
“I don’t believe them,” adds Vangelis, a 38-year-old navy sailor who declined to give his surname.
“There will be more cuts. More taxes. I don’t believe the crisis is over. Things will be worse.”
A meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Thursday is expected to conclude an audit of Greek reforms and sketch out an ‘enhanced surveillance’ of the Greek economy that will follow the end of the bailout in August.
The European Commission has already specified that Greece will remain under fiscal supervision until it repays 75 percent of its loans.
Eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund have already lent Greece over 273 billion euros since the start of the country’s crisis in 2010, according to the European stability mechanism.
The IMF, which cannot agree with the Europeans on the scope of debt relief necessary for Greece, is expected to withhold any further financial contributions but could stay on in an advisory capacity.
Kavagas says he had trouble even finding his present employment, which only pays 520 euros ($603) a month for five hours, seven days of work a week.
“We have to pay more bills, it’s not easy to find work, everything is more expensive,” he said.
Greece has already agreed to slash pensions again in 2019, and reduce the tax-free income threshold for millions of people in 2020.
In turn, the government has promised to channel spare funds to benefits for Greece’s poorest.
After eight years of painful reforms, including wage and pension cuts and tax hikes, Greece’s economy has stabilised and is expected to post moderate growth this year.
The leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which clashed with the creditors and nearly crashed the country out of the euro in 2015, has now reached a working arrangement with its creditors.
Greece has pledged to maintain a 3.5-percent primary surplus until 2022, with further cuts if necessary.
Tsipras has blamed the crisis partly on the corruprion and profligacy of past Greek governments, saying they fueled economic growth and job creation through cheap loans.
Without supervision, there is a risk that bad habits will return, says 82-year-old economist Nikolaos Glytsos.
“Personally I like this surveillance because I don’t trust the politicians to behave in the way they should,” says Glytsos, who is still actively employed at a private foundation.
“I don’t trust them to have a reasonable or sensible policy,” he adds.
“We have a long history of not learning from our mistakes.”
But there are those who are less gloomy.
“It’s good for us to finish with this situation because it was too hard for all the citizens of Greece and we hope the (bailout programmes) will finish,~” said Antonis Vourlias, a 19-year-old physics student.
“I imagine everything will be good, with more money, more jobs, and everyone will laugh,” he said.