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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 7 January 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 7 JANUARY 2017 21 GREECE NIKOS FOTAKIS Post-holiday comedown is a very well-documented condition. It is the anticlimax that makes even the most cheerful among us dive into melancholia, the exact moment that the lights from the tree are off and the last delicacy of Christmas is digested. Nothing − nothing − can ever represent this kind of anti-climax better than the Syntagma Square ferris wheel, which is currently being dismantled, in a painfully slow process that only adds salt to the wounds of utter failure, given that this wheel never even spun. A symbol of wasted money and unrealistic ambition, it is the narrative of the modern Greek state condensed and recreated through metal, glass and cables. And wooden palettes, on which the not-sogigantic construction stood in immobility, exposed to ridicule, as if this pedestal was enough to secure it. Deemed unsafe to operate (who knew that a wooden pedestal is not enough to secure it?), the ferris wheel became a butt for jokes in the Greek social-media-sphere. But the biggest joke was that the fair work review deemed the working conditions on the 'deconstruction' site as unsafe for the workers, hence the need for a long, arduous dismantling process. While no-one got up on the ferris wheel (even if they had, they wouldn't have seen much, as it was situated on the lower side of the central square of Athens), there was one person who went down with it; the city of Athens executive in charge of cultural affairs, head of the municipality's cultural organisation. Burdened with another scandalous commission, the NYE celebration concert that cost the city €170,000 − more than five times what any promoter would charge What goes up, must come down My big fat Greek week for the gig, Christos Tentomas took the bullet, leaving the mayor, George Kaminis, free to pursue his dream of becoming the leader of the new centre-left party, when the time comes. For the moment, that role fell upon Anna Diamantopoulou. The former powerwoman of PASOK, a prominent member of many cabinets, announced the creation of a new "progressive" party, along with fellow former ministers Yannis Ragousis and Giorgos Floridis. Although elections are nowhere near in sight, this new party hopes to succeed where Potami failed − not to mention the Democratic Coalition (formerly known as PASOK). Both centre-left parties are experiencing a slow but steady decline, seeing their support in the polls going down every passing day. Not everything is going downwards in Greece, though. On Tuesday, the Athens Exchange general index closed at 656.61 points, the highest it has achieved in the last 14 months. What is interesting is that this rise is completely unjustifiable. Regardless, the large-cap FTSE 25 index expanded 1.42 The Athens Ferris Wheel. per cent to close at 1,769.69 points, while small-caps jumped 5.82 per cent. Banks rose 4.44 per cent, with National up 6.32 per cent, Piraeus growing 5.66 per cent and Eurobank advancing 4.60 per cent, while mid-cap Attica Bank continued its recovery with an 18.92 per cent leap. In total 67 stocks recorded gains, 31 took losses and 25 remained unchanged. Turnover amounted to €42.1 million, up from Monday's record low of €10.4 million. This might prove to confirm the dogma that 'economy is psychology'; government officials insist that the pace of the Greek economy's recovery is reason enough to be hopeful and that the creditors should acknowledge this and stop stalling the bailout talks. Greece has its eyes on the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to have a series of talks with European officials with this goal in mind in the coming days in a bid to win support at the forthcoming Euro Working Group meeting on 12 January and the Eurogroup summit on 26 January. Back in Athens, Tsipras and the rest of the cabinet will have to deal with the farmers, who are not happy with things − and don't seem to buy the narrative that the economy is on the road to recovery. Demanding to be spared of the harsh taxation imposed by the government, farmer unions are currently in discussions to decide not if, but when they will set up roadblocks in the country’s freeways, cutting supply of their products, in their continuous fight to repel the memorandum that imposed the seven-year austerity on Greece. For the time being, though, the country has another concern − or distraction, if you will, as it is facing a spell of cold weather coming all the way from Siberia. If any of the predictions prove correct, by the time you read these lines, the Greek Facebook timeline will be dominated by variations of the phrase: "Oh my god, it's so cold, I cannot believe how cold this is." And the dismantling of the unmovable ferris wheel will again be postponed due to extreme weather conditions. Migration and low birth rates take toll on Greek population Although the next census in Greece will not take place before 2021, the National Statistical Authority confirmed the shrinking of the Greek population. According to official data, released by the end of 2016, the country's population amounted to 10,783,748 persons in January, a 0.68 per cent decrease since January 2015. The decline is attributed to the combined effect of low birth rate and rising migration. During the year, the number of deaths (121,212) outweighed those born in Greece (91,847), resulting in a decrease of 29,365 persons. Another 44,905 are due to the net migration outcome; despite the large people movement, the number of people migrating to Greece amounted to 64,446, far behind the 109,351 who left the country as part of the recent 'brain drain' phenomenon. What is even more concerning is the fact that the Greek population is ageing. According to the authority, the Greek population aged 0-14 years old amounted to 14.4 per cent of the total pop- ulation at the end of 2016. By comparison, 21.3 per cent of the total population was aged 65 years old and above. The majority of the population, amounting to 64.3 per cent, was aged between 15 and 64 years old. Both reasons for this alarming trend are largely aftereffects of the ongoing crisis. With chronic unemployment on the rise and no sign of financial recovery in sight, Greeks are looking for opportunity outside the country. As for those left behind, they are not very eager to reproduce. According to a 2015 study of the Greek National Social Research Centre, the fertility rate has hit record lows of 1.1 births to 1.3 births per woman. This decline in fertility rate is largely attributed to the uncertainty that is looming over the nation, after seven years of a crisis that seems to have no end. Austerity has resulted in one in four Greeks facing unemployment and made households unable to make ends meet, which in turn has made family planning a challenge.
24 December 2016
14 January 2017