The financial crisis in Greece has led to yet another day of violent, general strikes. This time, airports, schools and hospitals joined along and were shut down. About 500 airline flights have been canceled as the nation ground to a halt along with bus and subway services suspended. Workers from practically every public sector, except police, are protesting dramatic cuts and wages and benefits resulting from Greece’s massive national debts.
Greek’s stock and bond markets also took another huge hit as the crisis festers and talks for solutions drag on. Germany’s Prime Minister, Andrea Merkel, now advocates a ban on credit default swaps, one of the culprits in economic crisis facing Greece and many Euro Zone countries. Bloomberg News quoted Peter Chatwell of Credit Agricole CIB in London on the Greek tragedy saying, “Strikes could give someone an excuse to sell Greek bonds. The real risk, although a mild one, is that they could generate some violence.” SOME VIOLENCE??? Is this guy on crack??? Put the pipe down already, Petey!
Today’s strikers and demonstrators clashed with police, who fired volleys of tear gas to quell the crowds. Protesters retaliated throwing whatever they could find, including marble slabs, at police. Many street businesses and department stores were damaged in the melee. The previous strike on March 5 had strikers shut down public transit and then launched an attempt to storm the nation’s Parliament, as law-makers passed a new round of budget cuts.
The Greek government is slashing spending on public programs, reducing wages to public workers, and raising tax rates. Talks to secure aid from other countries, namely Germany, are continuing but still faces many hurdles. Thomas Mayer of Duetsche Bank said, “The main risk is not that adjustment in Greece is not feasible, but that Greek society will refuse to shoulder the inevitable near-term economic pain.” No kidding! Why should they be happy with the cuts in wages and services? After all, the ordinary people were not the ones who made deals with investment banks and hedge funds, selling the government debt and then hiding the truth from the public. The Greek intelligence agency is conducting an international investigation of the financial firms which enabled the debt crisis to occur.
Greek’s Prime Minister, George Papandreou, is still popular, despite the chaos. His polls numbers show an approval rating of 52%. A poll on March 7 showed 60% disapprove of the budget cuts and 65% say they are “unfair”. A whopping 87% believe the draconian measures will provoke social unrest.
The financial crisis in Greece is spreading to other countries in Europe, such as Spain and Ireland. The IMF and EU central banks have suggested that Greece sell territory and even ancient landmarks, such as the Acropolis, to back new loans and bailouts. Meanwhile, expect more strikes and shutdowns of airports, schools and other public institutions in Greece.