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Greece Starts Its Fire Sale of State Assets

Greece Starts Its Fire Sale of State Assets
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The deal to raise the US debt ceiling will reduce spending and slash budgets to programs. The austerity measures Greek Parliament (Vouli) voted on are far more draconian, as Greece is in a far more desperate situation.

Greeks face job loss, pension cuts and tax increases at the end of June: 20 percent of public sectors will lose their jobs in the next four years and those who still have a job face a 30 percent reduction in their salary. But that’s not the only way the country is seeking to pay its 350 billion euros of debt (about $498 billion), which is 150 percent of its GDP. With the country now “dependent on international handouts to pay public wages and pensions,” Prime Minister George Papandreou is charged with taking apart a “bloated public sector” created by his father, Andreas, in the 1980s. Greece has started a “fire sale of state assets” including the post office, the ports of Athens and Thessaloniki and utilities companies; if it is not able to privatize some of these properties, the country will not qualify for another trance of aid from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund. The country hopes to raise 50 billion euros by 2015.

Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos 1.7 billion euros by the end of September and 5 billion euros by the end of the year, quite a bit to raise in such a short time (it is the second of August). The fear is that many properties will end up in the hands of those few able to buy them quickly, says the Guardian:

The appearance of For Sale and For Rent signs on everything from former Olympic venues to island locales, casinos, marinas and airports, has been met with unexpected acceptance by Greeks long weaned on state largesse. A growing majority appears to agree it is the only way of arresting soaring unemployment by attracting foreign investment. Experts estimate Athens could own around 300 billion euros worth of state property, almost as much as the total Greek debt.

“There has definitely been a shift in mood,” said Stefanos Manos, a former national economy minister in a centre-right government. “But that could easily change. It is very clear that the government is only doing this under great duress from [our] international creditors,” he said.

“With timetables being so pressing, I worry that the whole process is very ill-prepared. If it there is not enough transparency we may end up like Russia, where only a cast of oligarchs end up benefiting.”

Many Greeks are withdrawing their savings from banks and stowing them away elsewhere (overseas or under the mattress).

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Photo of Thessaloniki's White Tower taken in March, before the protests, by the author

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20 comments

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9:14AM PDT on Sep 17, 2011

Dont sell State Assets.... DO NOT REPAY THE DEBTS...the amount is too large for such a small country...Euro politicians should understand...More/Less other countries are in similar position but everyones eyes are on Greece. The politicians should make sure there is room for growth in this poor economy and start planning for it...a bit... IF there is no growth then only debts and then poverty will creep in. That is for sure. I hope everyone supports Greece as it was not the common people who turned the country into this disaster but..the terrible self-centred politicians of the last 20-30years. Now George Papandreou is asked to pay for all that happened those years back, but is unable to do so and austerity measures are extremely severe. EU should appoint EU politicians to govern Greece, as the current and previous ones are not good enough and are only damaging the country and its people. Greeks deserve better leaders who give hope to them and to Europe in general...

5:40AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Perfect. Loan loads of money that can never be paid back and doesn't even exist, then collect the nations assets when they default. Theft, plain and simple. If they won't privatise like we in the UK did in the 80's (very few privatised industries have left us in a better position) they will get the assets another way. These people who want to own everything need some counselling for control and fullfilment issues.
The problem now is they gain in power, we lose more and more, become at their mercy and become slaves in everything but name only. We forget as national assets they belong to us collectively.
The first thing that happened when we got the conservatives back in is that they wanted to sell off our forests. Connection, the corps and individuals that would then buy this land wouldn't have to pay tax so where is the gain? None, just for those rich people who think they are entitled to more!

7:48AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

Please TAKE ACTION, NOW OR NEVER !!! 15th October 2011 http://international.democraciarealya.es/

7:42AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

It's time for another Social Order. The society needs to regain control over politics. Censorship of every move and every action made by politicians, MUST be supervised by social representatives. TAKE ACTION NOW !!!

6:45AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

I still think Greese shoule tell the EU to go *&%$ themselves and refuse to repay the loans the EU knew when they gave the loans that Greese could not pay them and made the loans any way. They are now using these same loans as a way to steel the heritage and assets of that country. Go broke and let the world eat their bad loans.

6:25AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

@Bernadette P.;@Steven J.: AGREED!! *ANGRY* WHAT WE NEED IS A MODERN VERSION OF ELLIOT NESS!!

6:05AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

Time to vacation in Greece!

1:48AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

If America has not started a fire sale, then why should Greece?

1:20AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

Thanks...again...to the bankers..wa...rs..

.they get big bonuses...after making a mess of things...

keep their jobs or go somewhere else to make a mess and as usual it is the individual who HAS TO PAY for HIS mistakes...

The world is paying for THEIR GREADY MISTAKES by price going up...people loosing jobs...family loosing their home....kids loosing their high education...people lifes been destroyed by BANKS and the regualtion is STILL not strong enough.....

AND...

Any bankers in jail...anywhere in the world for this....OF COURSE NOT!

1:20AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

This is so distressing, a pity what's going on and out of desperation greeks agree to privatization of important state assets. Desperate times call for desperate measures rings true I guess.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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