After Years Of Recession, Greeks Fear Bailout Will Only Make Lives Harder

Jul 16, 2015
Originally published on July 16, 2015 1:46 pm
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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Early this morning, the Greek Parliament took another step towards getting a bailout from its European creditors by passing tough austerity reforms. Now it's up to the other 18 eurozone countries to approve the Greek bailout plan. From Athens, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has our story.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Early this morning, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was elected to oppose austerity measures, urged the Greek Parliament to accept the harsh measures in the latest bailout plan.

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PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: (Speaking Greek).

BEARDSLEY: "We have the support of the people," he said to jeers as the deal overwhelmingly passed. Though many in his own party voted against it, Tsipras remains one of the most popular politicians in Greece.

But the promise of better economy one day couldn't be farther from the mind and life of 69-year-old Despina Karagiaouri, who lives in a poor Athens neighborhood where the concrete housing blocks dot an arid hillside. She pours us glasses of cold water to fight the midday heat. Like many Greeks, Karagiaouri's retirement pension supports several others, in this case her two teenage grandchildren.

DESPINA KARAGIAOURI: (Through interpreter) I have raised two grandchildren in one bed, here in my bed, only in this one room.

BEARDSLEY: Karagiaouri shows me her electric bill she can't pay. She has only 500 euros a month to support three people.

Greeks came out last night in front of Parliament opposing the deal, even though 60 percent of Greeks voted against new economic restrictions in a referendum over a week ago. Tsipras pushed them through anyway. Aristides Hatzis teaches economics and philosophy at the University of Athens. He says ironically it's this far-left government that may end up carrying out the most far-reaching reforms to date.

ARISTIDES HATZIS: Something like 70 percent of the Greek people believe that this agreement is very harsh. However, it was necessary. There were no alternatives.

BEARDSLEY: If this crisis could be summed up in one person it would be Yiorgos Galakteros. He's a regular middle-class guy who started a business manufacturing laundry detergent, but it went bankrupt. Now he's overwhelmed with debt and impoverished. Because of all the stress, he says, his diabetes has worsened and he's now blind in one eye. He says he's lost his house, his car and all hope.

YIORGOS GALAKTEROS: (Through interpreter) This crisis is the fault of impotent and thoughtless, reckless politicians who never thought about simple people here in Greece.

BEARDSLEY: Galakteros says he trusted a bad business partner like the Greeks trusted their politicians. He wants to get back on his feet again but feels he can never come out from under his debt. Many economists say Greece, too, cannot recover unless the current debt burden is lightened. Galakteros says to be free of debt would be like starting a new life. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.