Greeks foresee Grexit and drachma’s reintroduction

New austerity measures took effect this week in Greece.

Kostis Nakos, a shopkeeper in Athens says “My income tax has just gone up to 29%, my social security payments have gone up 20%, my pension has been cut by 50 euros; they are taxing coffee, fuel, the internet, tavernas, ferries, everything they can, and then there’s Enfia [the country’s much-loathed property levy]. Now that makes me mad. They said they would take that away!”

The latest measures – worth €5.4bn (£4.3m) in budget savings – mark a new era. After nine months of wrangling with the international creditors keeping the country afloat, Athens must apply policies that until now had been abstract concepts for a populace who have suffered as unemployment and poverty rates have soared.

For many, their arrival marks a new juncture, a psychological cut-off point whose consequences are yet untold. “For a long time, people had a cushion. There was fat in the system but that has now gone,” says Vassilis Korkidis, who heads the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce.

One by one, Korkidis rattles off the figures: Greece’s internal debt amounts to €220bn of which €119bn are non-performing loans; its external debt is close to €330bn; about 230,000 enterprises have shut since the start of the crisis including 10,000 this year alone. “Soon people will have to deal with tax declarations and Enfia and, by September, everything will have piled up. An explosion is possible. September is going to be a very decisive month.”

Taxi Driver Giorgos Balabanis, puts it another way. “And what I am hearing every day is that until we leave the euro, until we return to the drachma, until we have a currency that is not so strong, things will never be right,” he says. “Remember me because it’s going to happen. There will be an explosion and Grexit and the drachma will come back.”

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