A week after elections, Greece is no closer to having a government.
The election shattered the political status quo, and fragmented the political scene.
The parties cannot agree on a way forward.
The key issue is the economy.
The old government had pursued a course of austerity, to maintain Greece in the Euro-zone.
That policy is anathema to many of the new parties.
So there’s no coalition yet.
Meanwhile, many ordinary Greeks are struggling to make ends meet.
Theodora Oikonomides of Athens is one.
Theodora is highly qualified, and has worked as an aid worker in Africa, and was formerly a teacher.
But she hasn’t had a job, in Greece, for three years.
She works abroad for a few months, in places like Somalia or Congo, and then has to live off that money when she returns to Greece, where she lives with her mother.“It doesn’t begin to sense,” she tells anchor Lisa Mullins, “you don’t go to Somalia to find work!”
Her mother is retired and has seen her pension slashed by a third since the austerity campaign began.
Theodora spends her time volunteering to help disadvantaged kids and immigrants, and political activism (she tweets @irategreek).
She does not have a family of her own, for which she is thankful. “In this crisis, I don’t know how I would manage, if I had a family of my own.”
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Lisa Mullins: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH in Boston. A week after elections Greece is no closer to having a new government. The elections shattered the political status quo and left no party with the power to rule on its own. Now, Greek politicians cannot agree on how to move forward. The main stumbling block is the issue of austerity. The old government slashed the budget to keep Greece from defaulting and crashing out of the eurozone, but austerity is an anathema to the parties that scored big gains in the polls last week. Meanwhile, many ordinary Greeks are staying to stay employed. Athens resident Theodora Oikonomides is lucky enough to have occasional work, but she’s had to go outside the country to find it.
Theodora Oikonomides: By profession I am an aid worker. I started working as a teacher, but then I got involved in humanitarian aid, so this is what I do for a living essentially.
Mullins: I mean you’ve been to many places, including Kenya and Somalia, correct?
Oikonomides: Yeah, yeah, yeah, well of course, yeah. It’s completely different comparing Greece with Somalia doesn’t even begin to make sense, but on the other hand there’s no good reason we should be going backwards and this is what is actually happening. I mean there are things that are happening in Greece now with people dumpster diving for example, or homelessness, because Greece is a traditional society where we have very strong family ties. These were things that were unheard of, so even though we were never a very rich society, we were a society where family solidarity would keep everything, would keep things together. Now, this is falling apart. So this is why I believe what is happening to us is a disaster because we’ve already gone easily 30 years back in terms of economic and social development; and we don’t want to go any further.
Mullins: Now you were a teacher as you say by profession. You were also an aid worker. You’ve been a journalist and author. What do you do for a living now?
Oikonomides: Well right now what I do is that I take humanitarian jobs for a few months, make some money, come to Greece, eat up my money and then go abroad again because I completely gave up finding a job in Greece.
Mullins: You mean you have no steady work.
Oikonomides: No, no, no, no. Well, I mean part of it is the nature of the profession because in humanitarian work by definition, jobs are project based, but in Greece it’s not that I have no steady work, I have no work period.
Mullins: What do you do when you’re no embarking on aid work then? What do you do, can you rely on your own family for help?
Oikonomides: Well, yes, I can rely on my mother who lives in Greece and so when I’m in Greece I’m staying with her. And we share the expenses of our house. And I do a lot of volunteer work while I’m here, but there’s this absurd situation for me where I end up going to work in Somalia for a few months in order to make money and come and stay in Greece.
Mullins: Your mother hurt herself, I wonder if you can, oh, go ahead, sorry.
Oikonomides: Which doesn’t begin to make sense. I mean theoretically you don’t go to a country like Somalia to find work. You go to Germany or the UK, or to wherever, or you should be able to find work in Greece. But because there is no work in Greece, I’m just taking any job so that I can have some savings and come here and spend some time here.
Mullins: Is that the money you use to pay your bills with or it is your mother helping out with that?
Oikonomides: Well, we’re sharing, actually we live, I live together with her. My mom is a pensioner. Her pension to give you an idea, I mean she was a university professor, so she was getting a pretty good pension. She was getting 1800 euros before the crisis. Now her pension has been cut to 1300 euros, which is still a very decent income in Greece, but it does give you an idea of the size of the cuts that were imposed on people.
Mullins: Roughly cut by a third, so 1300 euros would be roughly about $1700 a month. You say it’s enough to live on there, but still she’s taken a big cut.
Oikonomides: Oh, she’s taken a big cut and for example, she doesn’t pay rent because she owns her house. If she didn’t own her house she would have a problem.
Mullins: Do you have family of your own, Theodora?
Oikonomides: No, luckily, because in this crisis I don’t know how I would manage if I had a family of my own.
Mullins: That’s Athens resident Theodora Oikonomides who is describing the impact of austerity on ordinary Greeks.
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