From pristine beaches to palaces, entire islands and its London embassy, a nation in crisis is selling its assets.
The sale of the coast at Afandou is part of the Greek government's desperate attempts to raise money by privatising its vast portfolio of state-owned assets – the largest firesale in history. Some 70,000 lots are for sale, ranging from pristine stretches of coast through to royal palaces, marinas, thermal baths, ski resorts and entire islands. Only last Wednesday, bidding closed for a stake in the state gambling company.
On Rhodes, a mountainous island 50 miles long that was the mythical home of the sun god Apollo, huge chunks of prime real estate are now up for grabs. Beside the 1,850-hectare Afandou estate there is the peninsula of Prasonisi, a paradise for windsurfers, and the Mandraki marina in Rhodes Town, where the famous Colossus, a 100 foot high statue that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, once stood guard over the port entrance.
The idea of snapping up a Greek island certainly has its appeal. In March the Emir of Qatar bought six for £7 million, while a Russian oligarch bought Skorpios – previously owned by the Onassis family – earlier this month for a reported £65 million, as a present for his 24-year-old daughter Ekaterina Rybolovlev.
The port of Poros, a pretty cobbled marina in southern Greece, is on the government books, as is the Athens police headquarters and the Ministry of Culture – a giant temple-like construction in the centre of the capital. So too are the buildings housing the ministries of health, education and justice. Even the Greek embassy in London's Holland Park: yours for £22 million.
Greece austerity bites as murders, suicides, diseases soar
WHEN Greece's economy took a plunge, murders and disease rates soared, according to a study that suggests the impact of the European nation's austerity cuts may be worse than expected.
Suicide and murder rates climbed from 2007 to 2009, particularly among men, and unusual outbreaks of malaria, West Nile virus and HIV took clinicians by surprise, said the findings in the American Journal of Public Health.
The decline in health came as Greece's once robust economy collapsed into recession following the global economic crisis of 2007, with unemployment rising from 7.2 per cent in 2008 to 22.6 per cent in early 2012.
Greece took out billions in loans to stave off financial collapse and implemented austerity measures that included a major downsizing of the Ministry of Health, where spending fell nearly 24 per cent from 2009 to 2011.
For patients, the cuts meant many previously free services now are costing them money. As well, there were salary freezes and layoffs in the health sector, and many preventive programs were halted.
Among the general population of some 11 million people, suicide rates rose 16 percent and murders climbed nearly 26 percent from 2007 to 2009, said the findings, which draw on Greek government data.
Meanwhile, deaths from infectious disease increased 13 per cent in those two years.
Normally, preventive measures in developed nations like Greece are successful at keeping diseases such as malaria and HIV to a relatively low incidence, co-author Howard Waitzkin of the University of New Mexico told AFP.
But when programs like needle-exchanges for drug users and condoms for at-risk groups were slashed, the disease rates ballooned.
The Greek economy is in free fall, having shrunk by 20 percent in the past five years. The unemployment rate is more than 27 percent, the highest in Europe, and 6 of 10 job seekers say they have not worked in more than a year. Those dry statistics are reshaping the lives of Greek families with children, more of whom are arriving at schools hungry or underfed, even malnourished, according to private groups and the government itself.
Last year, an estimated 10 percent of Greek elementary and middle school students suffered from what public health professionals call “food insecurity,” meaning they faced hunger or the risk of it, said Dr. Athena Linos, a professor at the University of Athens Medical School who also heads a food assistance program at Prolepsis, a nongovernmental public health group that has studied the situation. “When it comes to food insecurity, Greece has now fallen to the level of some African countries,” she said.
Greece’s crushing economic crisis has put a big dent in the pension fund system which has a reported shortfall of up to 2.5 billion euros ($3.26 billion) while the National Organization for Healthcare’s (EOPYY) deficit is expected to be 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) at the end of 2013.
According to data presented by the employees in pension funds during their 29th conference, revenues fell up to €700 million ($979 million) during the first two months in 2013. Recession, unemployment and undeclared work may lead the funds to fall even more.
According to the same data, in the largest Social Security Organization (IKA), which resorts every month to internal borrowing to have enough to pay benefits, incoming revenues fell 14 percent in the first two months this year, double what it was a year before, while IKA’s losses due to uninsured labor were 36 percent.
IKA had a supplementary loss of €1.5 billion ($1.95 billion) in 2013 due to pay cuts and unemployment, which reduced how much was collected for pensions from paychecks.
In the Social Security Organization for Liberal Professions (OAEE) the deficit is expected to reach €830 million ($1.083 billion) with a shortfall of 30 percent in contributions.
High Chance Greece, Cyprus Will Leave Euro: Citigroup
A new report from Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) looks at the possibility of Greece and Cyprus leaving the European Single Currency, the Euro, in the coming months and years. The report finds that there is a high chance of both countries leaving the Euro in the future, though the immediate risk of such an event is lower.
UK remains 'crisis economy' just like Europe and Japan
Mark Carney has warned Britain remains a 'crisis' economy and played down the role of central banks in creating growth.
Carney will in July take over from Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England when it was hoped he would be equipped with new ideas on how to tackle the UK's stalling economy.
But last night, Carney told the International Monetary Fund the UK sat inside a 'pack of crisis economies' that included the eurozone and Japan, and warned central banks could not provide sustainable growth.
Greece became the first developed nation to be cut to emerging-market status by MSCI Inc. (MSCI) after the local stock index plunged 83 percent since 2007.
Greece failed to meet criteria regarding securities borrowing and lending facilities, short selling and transferability, said MSCI, whose equity indexes are tracked by investors with about $7 trillion in assets.
The ASE Index fell 1.4 percent to 882.99 at 1:49 p.m. in Athens. The gauge has dropped 10 percent this week as Greece failed to win any bids in a sale of the country’s gas monopoly. The unsuccessful attempt to sell Depa SA dented Greece’s state-asset sales program, which underpins 240 billion euros ($318 billion) of bailout loans from the euro area and International Monetary Fund.
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