Last week, the International Monetary Fund admitted it had made grave mistakes in its handling of bailouts for Greece over the past three years. According to its own internal study, the IMF underestimated the toll that recession and unemployment would take on Greek society; the restructuring of Greece’s debt to private investors should have come much sooner.
While the IMF was acknowledging its errors regarding Greece, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was talking about his country as a “success story.” The number of tourists in Greece is expected to be far higher this summer and the country is expecting its first budget surplus in 2013. But austerity has more than taken its toll: 20 percent of Greece’s population now lives in poverty. On the very same day that the IMF admitted its mistakes, the Greek bureau of statistics reported that the country’s unemployment rosen again, to 26.8 percent.
Here are five reasons that austerity does not only bite, but can inflict long-term damage on people’s pockets, psyches, livelihoods and lives.
1. Austerity means shutting down public broadcasting
In a surprise move, the Greek government announced on Tuesday that it was shutting down the state broadcaster ERT to save money. Saying that the 75-year-old ERT (the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) was a “haven of waste,” authorities said that 2,500 employees would lose their jobs.
Nonetheless, journalists were able to use online video channels, Twitter and other Internet sites to get out the news. Thursday saw the country gripped by a general strike involving employees from the metro, airports, ferries, buses and media outlets, all protesting the Greek literally pulling the plug on ERT. “This is worse than the junta. What’s next? Tanks in front of Parliament?” as 67-year-old Thomas Dedes says in the New York Times, with a reference to the 1970s when the leaders of the junta running the Greek government imposed harsh controls on Greek state television and foreign news broadcasts.
Britain’s BBC also faces cuts in its income due to changes in the name of austerity under the Conservative government.
2. Austerity endangers the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities.
As of April 1, individuals with disabilities have found themselves facing up to six different welfare cuts passed by the U.K.’s conservative government. These cuts fall on the country’s health, welfare and justice systems and include a “bedroom tax” which is to be paid by those in public housing who receive government benefits if they have a spare bedroom and do not take in a renter or move. The government has also said that far more stringent standards will be applied in determining whether a person qualifies for disability services.
A coroner has ruled that benefits cuts were the reason that Nicholas Baker, a former farm worker who had been paralyzed on the left side of his body after a brain hemorrhage years ago, took his own life last December.
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