|DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press|
But have they?
With most of the
Greeks greeted the New Year after many spent hours lining up in tax offices to pay austerity levies on time. And heavy smog has returned to the country's capital after decades this winter as households left with no heating throw scrap wood and garbage onto the fireplace to try to keep warm.
Here's a look at some of
NO JOB, NO INSURANCE
More than 70 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than a year, leaving most to rely on charity after losing monthly benefit payments and health insurance.
"It's inconceivable that someone with the misfortune of having no work cannot have proper access to state health care," said George Patoulis, head of the
Worst affected, he said, are those with chronic illnesses, unemployed parents seeking vaccinations for their newborn children, and patients in need of expensive drugs including cancer treatment.
"We estimate that about 2 million people are without health insurance, out of a total of nearly 8 million who require insurance … and the problem looks set to continue in 2014," Patoulis said. "It's like planting dynamite under a country's public health."
Pro-bailout governments have tried to stimulate employment by slashing the minimum wage and axing long-standing labor rights and market protection rules — liberalizing everything from truck licenses to permits for neighborhood bakeries.
But unemployment numbers continued to get worse, and critics argue the system remains bogged down in excessive bureaucracy.
"It takes you five years to open up a barber shop in
"Five years! What am I, a heart surgeon? I just want to open a barber shop."
In desperation, Priftis began writing dozens of letters of complaint and faxing them to Greek authorities, as well as
Some of his letters got an answer. And the usually stern EU-IMF negotiators even promised to take up his case with the government during their inspections in
Samaras recently fell behind in the polls to the left-wing Syriza party that wants to radically renegotiate or even tear up bailout deals, arguing they have failed to deliver recovery and are socially catastrophic.
Syriza has vowed to try to topple the government at twin elections in May for local government and the European Parliament.
"In (2014) we will leave behind the decadent political establishment that left the country bankrupt, an establishment of graft and corruption," said Syriza leader
Public sympathy for the far-right
Despite all the bad news, few people doubt that
There's more good news: The country's credit rating has begun a long climb out of junk territory. Shares on the
Still, the weakened economy is set to be burdened by a national debt of 176 percent of gross domestic product this year, leaving
"A critical factor is the whether there can be at least a modest bond issue on the international markets. That would mark the end of the bailout program and could have a significant political effect," said Theodore Krintas, managing director at Attica Wealth Management.
"So I think 2014 will be a year with no middle-ground scenario. Things will either go well, or they will go badly. Either they will develop much more positively than 2013, or it'll be a year of great turbulence. It won't be business as usual, that's for sure."
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