Greeks angry at new wave of austerity cuts
A wave of strikes hit Greece on Thursday as demonstrators took to the streets to protest planned new cutbacks and deregulation to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union for a massive billion-euro bailout.
The protests come as European stocks and the euro plunged in early trading on fears over the banking sector in Europe and the US and the re-emergence of a bitter row over the US debt ceiling. There was also disappointment in the markets after the US Federal Reserve warned of serious downside risks to the world’s biggest economy.
Transport workers, taxi owners, civil servants, air traffic controllers and teachers went on strike while the main private sector union, the GSEE, and the Adedy syndicate representing civil servants have called for a general strike next month against the austerity measures.
On Wednesday, the government announced cuts to pensions and tax breaks and put 30,000 state employees on temporary layoffs after pledging to do anything to stay in the eurozone and unlock the EU-IMF rescue funds.
EU and IMF auditors suspended an audit of Greek finances due to take place in early September claiming a lack of progress on reforms. The release of 8 billion euros is needed to prevent Athens from running out of cash and into default next month.
Markets reacted negatively to the statement by the US Federal Reserve with Hong Kong falling to its lowest level since July 2009 while Paris dropped 4.84 per cent and London tumbled 4.81 per cent. The European single currency fell to a seven-month low of 1.34 dollars.
And markets were rattled by news that the US House of Representatives had defeated a stopgap measure to keep the government open past 1 October.
On a brighter note, the latest figures show Ireland’s bailed-out economy grew by 1.6 per cent in the second quarter outpacing other eurozone countries.
Irish Gross Domestic Product has managed to grow for two consecutive quarters for the first time in nearly five years.