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  #331  
Old 11-24-2017, 01:47 PM
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GREECE

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...ook-everything


Quote:
Greek Pensioners Protest Against Government That 'Took Everything'
Spoiler:
ATHENS (Reuters) - Several hundred elderly Greeks marched through Athens on Thursday, protesting against a government they say "took everything" with a new round of cuts to pensions and crumbling health care benefits.

Greece's three bailouts since 2010 have repeatedly taken aim at the pension system. Cuts have pushed nearly half its elderly below the poverty line with incomes of less 600 euros ($710.70) a month.

With nearly a quarter of the workforce unemployed, a quarter of children living in poverty and benefits slashed, parents have grown dependent on grandparents for handouts.

But after the cuts to pensions, some Greeks have seen their monthly cheque fall between 40 and 50 percent in seven years. After rent, utility bills and health care, they barely make ends meet.


"I have never seen the country in this state, not even during war," said 80-year-old Nikos Georgiadis, a former hotel employee whose pension has been reduced by 40 percent.

"Pensioners are impoverished, and not only can they not afford to buy medicines, some are looking for food in the trash," he said, leaning on a tree to catch his breath.

New changes to pension regulations mean more cuts are expected in 2019. Pensioners also have to pay more out of pocket for health care.

Fotini Karavidou, a 75-year-old retired accountant who joined the march in a wheelchair, said she had to "cut back on everything" to afford medicine.

"It's simple - many pensioners cannot afford to eat and to buy medicine," said Yiannis Karadimas, 67, who heads a local pensioners association.

Karadimas said it was "a joke" that the government had legalised marijuana for medical purposes while cutting back on health care spending.

"They're killing us and they're mocking us at the same time," he said.

The popularity of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has waned since he first won elections in 2015. In an effort to rebuild public support, the government gave Greece's 1.3 million pensioners a one-off Christmas bonus last year, worth 300 to 500 euros each.

But the handouts have failed to whip up any obvious increase in support. Pensioners have taken to the streets time and again in recent months. About 2,000 people joined Thursday's march.

"Unfortunately, I voted for them, and they turned out to be the biggest liars of all," Georgiadis, the pensioner, said. "It (the government) promised us everything, and it took everything."
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  #332  
Old 12-04-2017, 03:26 PM
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ITALY
https://www.reuters.com/article/ital...-idUSL8N1NY5R5

Quote:
Economists fret as Italian politicians promise to scrap pension cuts
* Pension reform helped calm markets during debt crisis

* Raises retirement age as life expectancy rises

* Government has exempted some categories
* Popular parties vow to repeal it after vote
Spoiler:
ROME, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Many of Italy’s leading politicians are promising more money for pensioners after elections next year, campaigning to undo reforms that economists say stabilised the country’s finances at the height of the euro zone debt crisis six years ago.

Italy still spends more than 16 percent of its GDP on state pensions, the second highest percentage in Europe after Greece, despite a package of deep cuts imposed by a government of technocrats in 2011 that helped halt a sell-off of its bonds.

The reform, named after then-Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, was never fully accepted by Italians. It raised the retirement age and requires further rises to be phased in over time, with the next hike -- to 67 years from 66 years and 5 months -- due to take place on Jan. 1, 2019.


But politicians from right-wing and anti-establishment parties expected to be among the leaders after an election in May next year say they want to repeal the reform, blocking future cuts and undoing those that have already taken place.

Economists say such a move could be a disaster for state finances. Italy’s ratio of debt to GDP is also the second highest in the European Union after Greece.

“If they undo the pension reform it will throw into doubt the sustainability of Italy’s pension system and its public finances in general,” said Lorenzo Codogno, head of LC Macro Advisors and former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

Tito Boeri, the head of state pensions agency INPS, told Reuters on Wednesday that net emigration and a falling birth rate meant it would be hard to fund the pension system over the next 30 years, even if current legislation is left untouched.

“I am reading about proposals from the parties (on pensions) that would cost billions and billions of euros, but we face very serious problems,” he said.

The centre-left government has so far resisted calls from senior officials in the ruling Democratic Party (PD) to scrap the 2019 increase in the retirement age.

However, under trade union pressure, it recently exempted 15 labour categories with “onerous” jobs, ranging from midwives and nursery school teachers to cleaners and lorry drivers.

That was not enough for the largest trade union, the CGIL, which has called for a day of street protests on Saturday, and it may be only a foretaste of what happens after the election.

“The Fornero law is a scandal,” says Carla Ruocco, a prominent lawmaker from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which leads in opinion polls. “It keeps people at work against their will, leads to an older labour force and makes it harder for young people to find work.”

DEBT BURDEN

Anti-immigrant Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, a core member of a centre-right coalition that looks set to win most parliamentary seats, says abolishing the Fornero Law should be “the first act” of the next government.

The law gradually raised the pension age for women to 65 in 2018 from 60 in 2011, to bring it more into line with the rules for men, and prescribed regular increases for both men and women thereafter, based on updated estimates of life expectancy.

It also tightened up the requirements for taking earlier retirement, which are now calculated on the basis of the number of years worked, rather than age.

While 5-Star and the Northern League want to bring down the retirement age, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a coalition ally of Salvini, has promised to raise the pensions of those who have already retired. The 81-year-old media tycoon has pledged to double minimum pensions to 1,000 euros per month, at a cost of at least 4 billion euros ($4.74 billion) per year.

Politicians of all stripes say the pension system has now reached long-term sustainability, though some economists dispute this, saying trends on demographics and economic growth are more negative than those assumed under the Fornero reform.

Whatever the trends in the longer term, for the next 10 years Italy will continue to fork out far more on pensions than most of its partners, according to Eurostat projections.

This not only makes it harder for the country to reduce its huge public debt, but sucks resources from other, more productive uses such as investment in education and infrastructure. ($1 = 0.8443 euros) (Additional reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; Editing by Peter Graff)

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  #333  
Old 01-08-2018, 07:53 PM
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ITALY

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...law-if-elected

Quote:
Italy's Rightist Bloc Vows to Reverse Pension Law if Elected

Spoiler:
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's rightist parties agreed on Sunday to the outlines of a joint manifesto for the country's March national election, including pledges to slash taxes, crack down on migrants and reverse planned increases to the retirement age.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, and its two allies, the far-right Northern League and Brothers of Italy, look set to win the March 4 vote, but are expected to fall short of an absolute majority.

The leaders of the three groups, who have an often testy relationship, gathered on Sunday for their first campaign strategy meeting, putting out a brief statement to highlight their shared policy priorities.

"Less taxes, less bureaucracy, less binds from Europe, more help for those who need it, more security for everyone," said the statement, released after four hours of talks in one of Berlusconi's luxury villas.


One of their main early goals if they win power would be to eliminate the "damaging effects" of 2011 legislation, named after then-Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, which called for staggered increases in the retirement age.

Italy still spends more than 16 percent of its gross domestic product on state pensions, the second highest percentage in Europe after Greece. Economists warn that undoing the law would cost billions of euros and alarm financial markets.

But the law is highly unpopular with Italians and the Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini, has made its repeal its number one priority. "Cancelling the Fornero Law (is) in the center-right program. Mission accomplished," Salvini wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

He also said that the three parties had agreed to expel all illegal migrants and "take control" of the country's borders, which are currently covered by the EU free-travel Schengen zone.

Sunday's statement made no reference to another League proposal - exiting the euro currency - but did commit the conservative bloc to introducing an unspecified flat tax.

The Northern League has called for a 15 percent flat tax, while Berlusconi has proposed a flat rate of between 20 and 25 percent. Income tax bands currently run from 23 to 43 percent.

The bloc has given no indication of how it intends to pay for its program, saying only that by lowering the tax rate, more people will pay up, raising the overall tax take.

Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday that the proposed flat tax was "not sustainable".

With the election less than two months away, all Italian parties are looking to win votes with eye-catching ideas.

The ruling center-left Democratic Party suggested last week that it might abolish the television license fee, while the leftist Free and Equal party on Sunday proposed making university education free for all.


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  #334  
Old 03-22-2018, 11:09 AM
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https://www.bloomberg.com/view/artic...safe-after-all

Quote:
Europe's `Safe Bonds' Are Not So Safe After All
The euro zone needs to issue common debt, but it won't happen soon.
Spoiler:
Call it the Holy Grail of the euro zone. Ever since the financial crisis, economists have been seeking ways to create a safe financial instrument, which banks in the single currency area can buy without having to load up on domestic sovereign bonds. Many placed their hopes in the proposal of a bundle of sovereign bonds called "European Safe Bonds" (ESBies); but that looks set to disappoint.

The purpose of a European “safe asset” is to dismantle the so-called doom loop between lenders and governments. Many euro zone banks hold large portfolios of domestic government bonds. When a sovereign gets into trouble, as happened to Greece and - to a lesser extent - Italy during the euro zone crisis, investors start doubting the value of these holdings. As a result, a sovereign debt crisis can quickly produce a banking crisis too. In fact, the sovereign debt crisis may be exacerbated, since investors may fear that the government will need to bail out its banks.

Of course, banks do need sovereign bonds: They are liquid assets, which can be sold quickly when needed. They can also be used as collateral by a central bank to obtain liquidity. So economists are seeking ways to design a financial instrument which is not tied to an individual euro zone country. The constraint here is that the new security should involve no sharing of debt, or debt mutualization, an idea which Germany and other low-debt countries are vehemently opposed to. They fear that they would be responsible for standing by weaker member states such as Italy or Portugal, were they to default.


A group of economists working together with the European Systemic Risk Board, the body looking after the overall financial stability of the EU, seemed to have been successful in this quest. The “European Safe Bonds”, presented in January after a long academic gestation, would combine all euro-zone sovereign bonds into one asset. They have the attractive feature of allowing investors to diversify risk. But, on closer scrutiny, they aren't as safe as they seem: ESBies could end up inducing the very crises they seek to avoid.

The ESRB proposal suggests that government bonds would be packaged together according to weights dictated by the ECB’s capital key. This determines how much capital each country should contribute towards the ECB. They would then be filleted in three parts: A supposedly safe one (the ESBies) -- which would be bought by the likes of pension funds -- and then a mezzanine and a junior tranche, which could be acquired by hedge funds. Were a country to default, the junior tranche would be the first one to suffer losses. If this were not enough, safer portions would also be affected.

The design of this instrument is clever. Its adoption, however, depends crucially on the way regulators treat it. At the moment, ESBies would be treated for risk purposes like a securitized product, the murky financial instruments such as mortgage-backed securities which contributed to the financial crisis. Banks find these securities costly, because of the amount of capital needed to hold against them. Supporters of ESBies would like regulators to be less stringent, arguing that sovereign bonds are a lot safer than, say, auto loans or mortgages.

However, even this may not be enough: At the moment, individual sovereign bonds are considered perfectly safe and hence enjoy a “zero-risk weight” when determining how much capital banks should hold against them. So long as this preferential treatment exists, lenders will have no incentive to hold ESBies over their own government debt, since this would force them to hold an extra layer of equity. The only way for ESBies to fly would be to give them a zero risk-weight, while removing it from individual sovereign bonds.

Some would argue this would be only fair: since ESBies are a diversified asset, they should be treated more favorably than country-specific sovereign bonds. The trouble is that the kind of diversification offered by these instruments is much lower than initially thought. While there are 19 countries in the euro zone, the weight of the top five or six countries within the bonds would be overwhelming. If Italy or France were to go bust, the presence of Latvian bonds in the security would offer little protection. Furthermore, as the euro zone crisis showed, sovereign bonds can be highly correlated: Once a country such as Italy suffers from a shock, Spain, Portugal and Greece are likely to come under pressure too. Even the "safe" ESBies can't protect investors from contagion.

Then there are big issues of implementation. The first is cost. In theory, ESBies could be provided by banks or asset managers, who would buy sovereign bonds in individual auctions and then package them. This would clearly come at a price, which would make these securities more expensive for investors than national debt. Moreover, these instruments would be highly illiquid, at least to begin with. Banks would demand a premium to hold them.

The second implementation problem is that, during a time of stress, securitization could propagate, rather than avoid, a crisis. Were a euro-zone country to be at risk of default, it is easy to imagine that no-one would be willing to buy the junior tranche of the securities. As a result, it would be impossible to issue them; the market would freeze and, possibly, collapse. This process could also accelerate contagion, spreading the fire to bonds which are considered safe.

So far, the assessment of rating agencies has not been positive. Standard & Poor’s issued a preliminary note on ESBies, indicating an approach that would rate them well below AAA. Proponents of ESBies think this is due to S&P’s own idiosyncratic methodology, which assumes there is zero recovery in case of losses. However, the rating agency’s criticism that there would be an excessive correlation of risks between the underlying sovereign bonds still stands.


Regulators are right to want to ensure that banks aren't loading up on government debt, leaving both vulnerable. But for all the good intentions of economists, there may be no easy way to create a safe asset which does not entail the sharing of risks between sovereign governments: Germany being on the hook for at least some of Italy's debt, and vice versa. A true "safe asset," I fear will have to wait until the euro zone is prepared to accept mutual responsibility for sovereign debt. Regrettably, we are still a long way from that now.
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  #335  
Old 04-30-2018, 02:31 PM
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PORTUGAL
TAX WAR

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...ich-pensioners

Quote:
Portugal Is Luring Rich Pensioners With Tax Breaks
Sweden, Finland could halt tax treaties on Portugal incentives
North/South divide shows EU discrepancies on social security
Spoiler:
After a lifetime of long Swedish winters and hefty tax bills, Dan Wikstrom’s dream of a comfortable retirement in the sun has come true. Not in a Caribbean tax haven, but in Portugal, a far more convenient four-hour flight away.

The 63-year-old former executive is among a growing number of northern Europeans lured south by a flat income tax rate of 20 percent and 10 years of tax-free pension payments. For Wikstrom that means doubling his retirement income, to around $12,000 per month.

“Do I feel guilty? Of course not,” Wikstrom, who used to work for a Swedish energy company, said in a telephone interview from Cascais, a coastal resort about 18 miles west of Lisbon, where he now resides.

Portugal introduced the incentives nine years ago in an attempt to bring back expatiates and attract highly skilled foreign workers. But their appeal to wealthy pensioners has caused tension within the European Union.

Finland has said it wants to end its tax treaty with the Iberian nation, creating a headache for Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno. Centeno chairs the group of EU nations that share the euro, of which Finland is a member.

Sunshine & Golf
It’s not just about the money. Great golfing resorts, 300 days of sunshine per year and plenty of ocean views also help explain the success of the program, which had attracted a total of 10,684 foreigners by the end of 2016, according to Portugal’s finance ministry. Wikstrom followed 777 Swedish nationals who made the move last year.


Bjorn JacobsenPhotographer: Pernilla Jacobsen
“The Swedes have always enjoyed coming to Portugal, but they are coming in much bigger numbers these days,” said Bjorn Jacobsen, who runs Swedish real estate broker Fastighetsbyran in Cascais. The 42-year-old, who moved to Portugal with his wife in 2015, credits an improving economy, a booming real estate market and the perception of Portugal as a safe place -- it ranked third in the 2017 Global Peace Index after Iceland and New Zealand -- for the rise in arrivals.

Equal Treatment
The program’s growing success highlights a fundamental difference in the way EU states approach social security. Nordic nations with generous welfare policies allow citizens to deduct pension contributions during working lives, only to tax incomes after retirement. In southern European states like Portugal, such deductions are generally available only for a minority who have set up a private pension.

“This is a question of equal treatment for all pensions paid out by the Finnish pension system,” Finance Minister Petteri Orpo said in a recent email. His Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, voiced similar criticism last year when she said that Swedes were free to move to Portugal because of the climate, wine or even the fado music, but not to avoid paying taxes.

Centeno has played down such complaints, telling Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua on April 20 that his country’s tax incentives were “quite marginal.”

“We will work together with all those countries to clear these subjects,” Centeno said, without elaborating.

Portugal’s so-called non-habitual residents program has also caused tension at home, with the Socialist government coming under fire for providing tax breaks to foreigners while many of its citizens struggle financially -- Portugal’s tax burden reached a 22-year high in 2017, according to a report by the public finance council. Critics also complain that the influx has helped bolster real estate prices, which according to the country’s statistics office rose 9.2 percent in 2017.

Read more: Chinese Property Buyers Stuck in Portugal’s ’Golden Visa’ Limbo

Portugal’s Left Bloc party, which along with the Communists supports the minority Socialist government in parliament, sees the non-habitual residents program as one of the main factors behind rising real estate prices, a party spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. It will propose changes to this regime and to the golden visa program in the negotiations for the next budget.

“When you don’t tax one group of people you end up having to increase the tax burden on another group. That’s unfair,” said Ricardo Cabral, a professor of economics at Portugal’s University of Madeira.
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  #336  
Old 05-01-2018, 02:38 PM
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GREECE

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/gree...e-nations.html

Quote:
Greece’s debt deal will set a precedent for how wealthy Europe treats its less fortunate nations
Spoiler:
Not so long ago, at the height of the so-called euro zone crisis, the phrase "Greek debt" graced headlines and news bulletins on a daily basis, and remained at the forefront of investors' minds for weeks if not months at a time.

In the current age of Brexit and Conservative Party resignations, that is no longer the case. But for Greek citizens who have suffered years of government cuts and international opprobrium, the issue has never faded from the national consciousness. And that holds just as true for an army of European bureaucrats and politicians who are now tasked with closing the book on what many consider to have been the most frightening chapter in modern Europe's financial history.

In a couple of weeks' time a group of international debt inspectors will land in Athens, where they will gain access to the Greek government accounts and pore over its policy proposals for what may be the final time. If this team of forensic economists comes away satisfied with the local authorities' reform efforts, as well their finances, it should in theory mean that European leaders will be able to settle on a long-term plan for the struggling country's hundreds of billions of euros in outstanding debts by the end of June.

The unraveling then repackaging of Greece's national debts has proved a long and tortuous journey for all involved, with eight years of tight supervision by a handful of foreign governments and funds, over the course of three separate bailouts. But unless a major roadblock appears between now and then, August 20 will mark the first day in almost a decade that Greece's leaders — most prominently Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his finance chief Euclid Tsakalotos — would regain full control over their own spending. The alternative — a continuation of foreign supervision of government accounting that exists today — would be far from politically palatable for Tsipras as he prepares for national elections next year.

For that to be avoided though, decisions beyond his direct control will need to be taken. For not only must the Greeks themselves show that they have met the dozens of various commitments imposed on them by their creditors, with further progress still required in areas such as the privatization of state assets, reforms to the energy sector, and rules around property foreclosures. But euro zone finance ministers must agree on how the country's debt load — currently equivalent to 180 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) — can be reduced, delayed or otherwise recalculated.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has thus far very publicly refused to participate in the current bailout round, which formally ends in August, because its in-house models for Greece's economy indicate the current debt repayment program is not sustainable — even though Athens has managed to beat some recent budgetary predictions. The continued absence of the IMF poses a potential problem for Greece's investors — both current and future — since the Fund's involvement in a debt program tends to boost confidence that repayments can and will be made by a nation that has previously faced default.

French finance minister: French finance minister: Should be able to find consensus on Greece
6:19 AM ET Fri, 27 April 2018 | 02:47
Speaking in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia last week, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told me the EU believes its models may be more accurate, but argued that the best way to win an IMF buy-in would be to agree on a debt repayment mechanism first proposed by his countrymen — and one of his successors as French finance minister — Bruno Le Maire. Macron's finance chief told me separately that he hoped to win over opponents to his plan, a "growth adjustment mechanism" that would automatically link future debt repayments to Greece's relative economic success: Athens would repay larger installments if its economy expands quickly, and reduce payments if it slows, a process that its proponents claim provides market participants with greater clarity and transparency.

Arrayed against the French plan is the desire on the part of authorities in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria to maintain a degree of political control over Greece's required repayments. This might mean the size and scope of future repayments could be assessed by national parliaments, rather than automatically calculated based on factors like GDP growth. The publicly espoused view in Berlin is that such an approach would force the Greeks to continue with their structural reforms and austerity measures that have helped transform what was a 15 percent budget deficit in 2009 into a recent surplus. The new man at the top of Germany's finance ministry, Olaf Scholz, so far seems to be almost as tough as his predecessor Wolfgang Schaeuble, a man who famously earned the nickname "Dr. No" during Greece's initial debt negotiations, was labeled "dishonest" on occasion by his Greek counterparts, and even clashed with the IMF and his own cabinet colleagues over German lending.

Whatever the eventual deal, Le Maire is not alone in repeatedly stressing the urgency of these conversations. The Greeks have now published their latest economic proposals for a post-bailout world, designed to show markets that they will continue with reform efforts even without such external pressure. They are also intent on building up a sizeable cash buffer, drawn from unused bailout funds and their own budgetary surpluses, so they can weather the whims of the market and hit their first few repayment deadlines after August.

Time is once again tight to find common ground and cobble together a solution. But any final deal will be viewed by many across Europe as a proxy for how the continent's wealthiest nations treat the less fortunate — or indeed less responsible — of the bloc's members.
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  #337  
Old 08-20-2018, 11:44 AM
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GREECE

https://seekingalpha.com/news/338401...-program?ifp=0

Quote:
Greece emerges from bailout program

Today is a historic day for Greece as nearly a decade of external financial help and the nation's third bailout comes to an end.

Athens will now be able to tap financial markets to fund its activities, marking the closure of the European sovereign debt crisis after Portugal, Ireland and Spain came back from the brink.

Speaking too soon? Renewed market tremors last week over Italian debt and fresh attacks by politicians in Rome on Europe’s establishment are still fueling fears that all is not well with the euro.
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45...m_medium=email
Quote:
Greece emerges from eurozone bailout programme

Spoiler:
Greece has successfully completed a three-year eurozone emergency loan programme worth €61.9bn (55bn; $70.8bn) to tackle its debt crisis.

It was part of the biggest bailout in global financial history, totalling some €289bn, which will take the country decades to repay.

Deeply unpopular cuts to public spending, a condition of the bailout, are set to continue.

But for the first time in eight years, Greece can borrow at market rates.

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"We contemplated suicide a lot. But we said no, we struggled". After 8 years #Greece exits its bailout today. Austerity had a crippling impact. I covered the crisis as Athens correspondent and returned to see Greece's progress. With @timfacey @KallergisK https://vimeo.com/285782539?ref=tw-share

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The economy has grown slowly in recent years and is still 25% smaller than when the crisis began.

"From today, Greece will be treated like any other Europe area country," the EU's Commissioner on Economic and Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said on Monday.

Its reforms had, he said, "laid the foundation for a sustainable recovery" but he also cautioned that its recovery was "not an event, it is a process".

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), only four countries have shrunk economically more than Greece in the past decade: Yemen, Libya, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea.

How was Greece bailed out?
The last €61.9bn was provided by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in support of the Greek government's efforts to reform the economy and recapitalise banks.

The bailout - the term given to emergency loans aimed at saving the sinking Greek economy - began in 2010, when eurozone states and the IMF came together to provide a first tranche of €20bn.

The European single currency had fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 2006 and there were fears the debt crisis in Greece would undermine Europe's recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

Image copyrightREUTERS
Image caption
Former Prime Minister George Papandreou saw his government crumble after agreeing to the bailout
At the worst moments of the crisis, there were doubts about whether the eurozone would survive at all. There seemed to be a real possibility that Greece and perhaps others might have to give up the euro.

The response included bailout loans, for a total of five countries, and a promise from the European Central Bank that it would, if necessary, buy the government debts of countries in danger of being forced out of the eurozone.

Set up by eurozone states, the ESM had been prepared to provide a further $27bn to Greece but said the country had not needed to call on it.

"Greece can stand on its own feet," said ESM chairman Mario Centeno.

'I can't buy my little grandchildren a present'
By Mark Lowen, BBC News, Athens

Tassos Smetopoulos and his team of volunteers run a food handout in central Athens.

"The numbers are actually rising," he says, chopping up vegetables for a huge pot to serve to those who wait. "The bailout might be ending on paper - but not in reality."

Fifty-four-year-old Fotini, who was laid off three years ago, is one of the few who will speak openly. This proud nation has struggled to accept its loss of dignity.

"I don't see the crisis coming to an end," she says. "We are stressed and angry because we don't have jobs. I'm embarrassed that I can't buy my little grandchildren a present. We just want to live comfortably in our own homes so we can look our children in the eyes."

Read more from Mark

How are Greeks coping?
At the height of the crisis, unemployment soared to 28% but today it is 19.5%.

Image copyrightAFP
Image caption
Chemistry graduate Panagiota Kalliakmani has gone from the lab to the kitchen
Those employed often have jobs for which they are overqualified, such as chemistry graduate Panagiota Kalliakmani, 34.

Seeing career prospects in her home city of Thessaloniki shattered, she is now finding work as a chef.

"The crisis was a slap in the face," she told AFP news agency. "We had grown up accustomed to the benefits of living in a European country and suddenly everything came crashing down."

"Nothing is certain," she added. "The crisis taught us not to make long-term plans."

Some 300,000 Greeks have emigrated in search of work since the crisis began while those depending on state benefits have seen their income whittled away.

Image copyrightREUTERS
Image caption
Yorgos Vagelakos and his wife live in a suburb of Athens
Yorgos Vagelakos, an 81-year-old retired factory worker, took home a pension and benefits amounting to €1,250 before the debt crisis.

Today he gets €685 and his debts are growing, he told Reuters news agency. He can no longer support the families of his two sons and can barely cover his and his wife's needs.

"I wake up in the morning to a nightmare," he said. "How will I manage my finances and my responsibilities? This is what I wake up to every morning."

How will the loans be repaid?
While Greece's economy has stabilised, its accumulated debt pile stands at about 180% of GDP.

Under a deal hammered out with other eurozone states in June, it must keep strict control over its public spending, running a budget surplus, before interest payments, of at least 2.2% of GDP until the year 2060.

With serious questions over its ability to manage, some analysts predict it will still be paying off its current debt after 2060.

Greece's freedom to control its own economic affairs will be tempered by enhanced surveillance from the European Union's executive, the European Commission.

Professor Costas Meghir, an economist with Yale University based in the Greek capital Athens, told the BBC: "The Greek government has to be even more disciplined now because it has to rely on foreign markets at reasonable interest rates to be able to borrow."

What does the Greek milestone mean for Europe?
Professor Kevin Featherstone, director of the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of Economics, said Greece had helped to safeguard the future of the eurozone by agreeing to the terms of the bailout programme.

"For a political system to have gone through these years of austerity, this depth of economic hardship, and maintained a functioning society, a functioning democracy, is testament to the robustness of Greece as a modern state," he said. "Greece has saved the euro."


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Old 08-21-2018, 01:24 PM
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GREECE

https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/n...c-93d40ad502e0

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Greece puts bailout, bankruptcy in rear view mirror, but many Greeks are hardly celebrating
Greece puts bailout, bankruptcy in rear view mirror
Spoiler:
ATHENS, Greece – After eight years, Greece is slated to rejoin the international economy when its European bailouts officially ends today.

“Greece will now become a regular country,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Athens recently in a speech marking the end of the $305 billion rescue dating from the Eurozone crisis. “It will get back its political and economic sovereignty. With the agreement on the Greek debt, the country is finally turning a new page and moves on a new period, where austerity will every day be substituted by social justice.”

After teetering on bankruptcy in 2009 amid the financial crisis and ensuing recession, and government spending that had been rising since Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, Greek debt has stabilized at $402 billion, or 180 percent of gross domestic product, up from 109 percent before the crisis started, according to analysts.

But many Greeks aren’t celebrating.

Greece’s creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – forced Tsipras to hike taxes and cut pensions, social welfare benefits and other public investments.

Unemployment is 20 percent, up from 12 percent when the crisis started, and more than double that for those under 35. One out of three Greeks now live under the poverty line. From a $414 billion economy – close to that of Washington State – Greece's GDP is now $227 billion, a 45 percent decrease.

“The celebration for the end of the crisis for us, young people, is like we’re being administered a placebo,” said Eleni Polydorou, a 24-year-old unemployed video producer who has never had a full-time job. “It’s a moment of optimism that you know isn’t real. We’ll still be living in conditions dictated by the bailout agreements and austerity.”

With half of Greece’s youth out of work, Polydorou is desperate. She’s been sending out many resumes and gets the same canned response: she shouldn’t expect a lot of money.

“Most jobs don’t pay anymore,” said Polydorou. “That’s why many young people leave the country.”

With elections slated for next year, the government is promising jobs and economic reforms to help. Many are skeptical.

Dimitris Charalambis, a political scientist who recently retired from the University of Athens after 35 years of teaching, knows austerity all too well. His salary shrunk by 40 percent. He fears he’ll soon be seeing cuts in his pension.

“Pension cuts are obviously unfair, especially for us who've spent so many years working in such a crucial sector, like education,” he said. “Now, we have to live at risk of poverty.”

The future feels gloomy, some say, because of the June agreement between Greece and its creditors. The Mediterranean country will have to achieve a 3.5 percent surplus until 2022 and a 2 percent surplus until 2060. Such high surpluses are difficult even for oil-producing countries to achieve for 40 years in a row, said Charalambis.

The accord requires the government to cut spending to reach that ambitious surplus, which could lead officials to cut pensions. Delays in payments to contractors and pensions account for this year’s surplus, Charalambis said. While he waits for his pension to arrive in the coming months, he has no other income.

Average incomes are down to $11,400 compared to $52,190 nine years ago.

Today, Greeks make 67 percent of what their European counterparts earn. As a result, almost half of Greeks struggle to pay their home loans, compared to the 5 percent who did before the crisis started. Foreclosures have become normal.

“The bank tried twice to kick us out of our home,” said 56-year-old former electrician Vasilis Skopelitis, who recently suffered a heart attack. “The first time they came, they saw me enraged and got scared and left. The second time, solidarity groups showed up in our doorstep and in order to avoid any media attention, they left again.”

Skopelitis describes how before the crisis, Greek banks gave him, his wife and his children all sorts of loans, for example, $150,000 to buy and renovate a house. His children then lost their jobs, couldn’t pay their loans, lost their homes and moved back in with him and his wife.

Today, they’re all unemployed and they all live under Skopelitis’ roof. They now survive on $584 worth of his monthly pension benefits.

“I paid every single installment when I had a job and until the crisis started,” said Skopelitis, referring to taxes and pension payments. “Now, what should we pay first? Food, electricity, or the bank?”

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Old 08-21-2018, 01:33 PM
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Average incomes are down to $11,400 compared to $52,190 nine years ago.

Today, Greeks make 67 percent of what their European counterparts earn
Does not compute.
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Old 08-21-2018, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ElDucky View Post
Does not compute.
Let's figure it out:
https://tradingeconomics.com/greece/wages

That's monthly wages (and obviously, that's only for those who work), so we've got a peak of 1462.20 per month, so that's $17546/year

lowest, recently is 939.14 per month so $11,270/year.

So the first number looks correct, and the second number was totally munged.

Of course, that's average wages for those working. They've got high unemployment and a low labor force participation rate.
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