"Greece Financial Crisis Hits Poorest and Hungriest the Hardest"Αναφορά στο ΜΠΟΡΟΥΜΕ στους New York Times

Κυρ 12 Ιουλίου 2015
Άρθρο της Anemona Hartocollis, 11 Ιουλίου 2015 ATHENS — Behind the lace curtains of a soup kitchen run by a parish in the humble Athens neighborhood of Kerameikos, the needy and hungry sit down to a plate of sliced cucumbers, three hunks of bread, a shallow china bowl of chickpea soup and often a piece of meat. Sometimes there is even ice cream, a special treat. People prize the refectory, run by a priest, for its homeyness, and they travel long distances to fill their empty stomachs at least once a day. But on Thursday, the priest, Father Ignatios Moschos was worried that he would no longer have enough food to go around if the country’s economic paralysis continues, as it seems likely to do even if Greece and its creditors manage to work out a last-minute deal this weekend to avert a Greek exit from the euro. “It will be hard, dark, painful,” the priest said, nibbling from a bowl of pistachios as a long line of people waited for their turn to eat at the communal tables. “We will have trouble receiving food.” Poverty in Greece has been deepening since the financial crisis began more than five years ago. Now, aid groups and local governments say they are beginning to feel the effects of nearly two weeks of bank closings, as Greece struggles to keep its financial system from failing and to break out of years of economic hardship. And any deal with creditors this weekend will bring further cuts in government spending. It will also bring higher taxes and, as a consequence, more short-term pressure on the economy. As Athens takes on the aura of Soviet Russia, with lines of people outside banks waiting to receive their daily cash allowance, some aid groups are seeing their supply channels narrow. By some accounts, lines for food, clothing and medicine have grown fivefold in parts of the capital in the last two weeks alone. The European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, has said he shares Greeks’ concerns. President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission said this past week that the European Union was making plans for humanitarian aid to Greece to cushion the blow if a third bailout was not worked out by Sunday and Greece was forced out of the euro system. Several organizations and the city government of Athens said they were making fund-raising plans. A prominent group, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, announced on Wednesday that it was immediately allocating 20 million euros, or more than $22 million, toward the municipal governments of Athens and Thessaloniki “to cover the immediate needs of citizens in the large urban centers, who are experiencing the consequences of the deepening crisis more severely.” Of course, not all of Athens is suffering. In central Athens and more affluent suburbs, the cafes are full of Greeks and tourists eating, drinking and talking until well past midnight. And if there is a deal with the creditors, it could lead to the banks reopening at some point soon. But much of Greece has been struggling for years with extremely high levels of unemployment, cuts in social welfare programs and pensions and what the Greek central bank concluded in 2014 was one of the highest rates of income inequality among European Union countries. Since July 3, after the cash controls began, the Venetis chain of about 80 bakeries has expanded its charity program and has been giving away about 10,000 loaves of bread a day — a third of total production — to the destitute, families with many children, the unemployed and retirees. They could be seen flying out of the darkness like birds to a Venetis outlet in the Pangrati neighborhood of Athens one evening a few days ago, belying the neighborhood’s facade of prosperity. In the poorest neighborhoods, scuffles have broken out, Panayiotis Monemvasiotis, the general manager of the company, said Friday. “In the third round of austerity measures, which is beginning now, it is certain that in Greece there will be no consumers — there will be only beggars,” he said. In neighborhoods where tourists are less likely to go, such as the area around Omonia Square, people in ragged clothes can be found sleeping on sidewalks and in public parks. Others who are just a bit luckier are able to hide their poverty. They negotiate rent cuts from landlords, take advantage of social service agencies like Praksis that offer free showers and washing machines to people without electricity or water, or go to the soup kitchens scattered throughout Athens. Xenia Papastavrou, a founding member of Boroume, We Can, a nongovernment agency that matches excess food from supermarkets, restaurants and even wedding parties, with organizations that distribute it to people who are hungry across Greece, said that more people have wanted to donate over the last two weeks, because they see the need. “I’m sure that things will get worse,” Ms. Papastavrou said. One of the largest soup kitchens in Athens is run by the city government, in collaboration with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Athens, near Omonia on Pireos Street. It serves 600 to 1,000 people a day, city officials said. Mayor George Kaminis of Athens issued a statement Thursday saying that the city was helping support 20,000 people a day with groceries, hot meals and other basics. At a donation center run by the city in Kato Patisia, the number of people arriving each day for food, medicine and clothing has risen to 100 from 20 in just the last two weeks, Alexandros Kambouroglou, an adviser to the mayor, said Thursday. He attributed that escalating demand to fear of future shortages. Charities and government officials say that as long as the banks are closed and the movement of money outside Greece is prohibited, they face the same problem as every other Greek — they cannot import supplies. “As a city we are working very systematically to make sure we have provisions,” during this period of capital controls, Yorgos Stamatopoulos, press secretary for the mayor of Athens, said Thursday. Until recently, the Galini Institution soup kitchen run by Father Moschos, gave food to anyone who wanted it. But the demand has grown so quickly that it has begun asking for documentation that people are poor, such as proof of monthly income, employment status and the inability to make rent or utility payments. It also used to close for part of the summer. But Father Moschos said he believed the need would be so great this summer that it would have to remain open. In the morning, the soup kitchen gives a package of cooked food to people who prefer to take it home than to eat lunch communally. On Thursday the take-home package contained a container of pasta with bacon and tomato sauce, bread, sesame bread rings called koulouria and a can of evaporated milk. People are expected to bring the container back for more. The volunteers, including Evaggelia Konsta, whose family donates meat from its meat company, sprang up to greet a 93-year-old woman who arrives every day by bus, alone, to fetch food for herself and, she said, her five grandchildren. The dining hall seats 56, and people eat in several shifts. The number of people rises to about 450 a day on weekends, from 350 on weekdays, Ms. Konsta said. There is air-conditioning, a relief from the scorching sun. A heavy brass chandelier hangs overhead and volunteers politely put plates of food on the table one at a time. Fotis Nikolaou, 39, an unemployed painter and tiler, wolfed down some soup on Wednesday, then swabbed his plate with bread. He complained that the daily wage for a laborer like him had dropped as low as €10 for 12 hours of work, and that is off the books. Only immigrants would take such jobs, he said. He had no doubt that life would only get harder for Greece in the coming weeks and months, and that he would only wait longer for the soup. But he found comfort in thinking he would not be alone. “We could suffer 20 years,” he said. “But at least we’ll suffer together.” Πηγή: New York Times Έντυπη έκδοση 12 Ιουλίου 2015, σελίδα A14 New York edition με τίτλο: “Despair Growing in Streets of Greece as Debt Crisis Festers/”