General strike paralyzes Greece: vote on austerity measures nears
About 100,000 Greeks took to the streets of Athens to protest a series of austerity measures the Greek governmetn has been forced to take if they want that IMF and EU bail out money. A general strike virtually paralyzed the country with hospitals down to skeleton staffs and most public transportation at a halt.
Protesters are set to rally in front of parliament from 0800 GMT (4 a.m. ET) and will try to stay on the square till late at night, while lawmakers vote on the bill.
Analysts expect the protests to continue unabated as Greeks of all walks of life have become increasingly angry at measures they feel only hurt the poorest while tax evaders and corrupt politicians remain unaffected.
But commentators see no other option for the ruling Socialists, who hold 154 seats in the 300-strong assembly, than to pass the measures, a key condition to convince the EU and IMF ahead of a crunch summit on Sunday that Greece deserves to keep getting the loans it needs to avoid bankruptcy.
"People sent a message on Wednesday that they have reached their limits and can't take any more austerity," said Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think-tank.
"But these kind of protests cannot topple the government ... I don't see this happening now," he said.
The bill foresees an average income cut of about 20 percent for public sector workers, according to estimates by public sector labor unions, and reduces the tax-free income threshold.
It will make it easier for firms to cut payroll costs by reaching company-level wage agreements, which has particularly angered some ruling party lawmakers."
If I were Greek, I'd be mad too. But it is unrealistic of them to expect the rest of the world to fund their way of life when they themselves refuse to do the things necessary to make their economy viable. The US is going to face the exact same decision some day and I would hope we would see that allowing the Chinese and other governments to pay for our spending spree is not the way to establish a strong economic base.