The reality of Greece's crisis: grinding poverty - Macleans.ca

The reality of Greece’s crisis: grinding poverty

Meanwhile, rich tax cheats aren’t being punished

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Any notion that the outcome of Greece’s fiscal mess will be a bit of belt-tightening in the country’s profligate public sector is nonsense. In fact, the brunt of the austerity push now being imposed by the country’s government, in a struggle to avoid defaulting on debt, will be felt by the newly poor. Last year, the number of Greeks without jobs soared to 14.8 percent, and is expected to climb over 18 per cent by the end of this year. Unemployment benefits are available for only a year at a paltry monthly rate of less than €500. After that, there’s almost no social assistance. Homelessness is rising steeply in Athens. Greece hasn’t experienced anything like it since 1961. The country’s economy rests largely on tourist attractions and agricultural products, so the chances of a quick bounce back are slim. And the fiscal problem can be traced back largely to widespread tax cheating by the rich—ordinary Greeks can’t dodge taxes easily since automatic deductions from their pay cheques are the norm. The small wealthy class, however, illegally avoids an estimated €40 billion in tax each year. They aren’t afraid of being caught. Panos Kazakos, an Athens-based professor of politics, says: “I have never seen a single person put in jail for tax evasion.”

Der Spiegel

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