The deepening economic crisis of Greece that could have far-reaching effects around the globe is weighing heavily on the minds of several members of Red Deer’s Greek community who still have a lot of family there.
Gus Koupantsis, who operates It’s All Greek to Me restaurant in Red Deer, said the government has been making mistakes for many years by not properly investing the country’s money. And now the citizens are paying for it.
Greece owes the rest of the world more than $340 billion Cdn. “This is hard for a country of 10 million people,” Koupantsis said on Thursday.
He phones family in Greece every couple of days.
“Everybody is sad,” he said. “The government has put in so many taxes, fired people from their jobs. Years ago, we had six to seven per cent unemployment and now it’s between 16 and 20 per cent.”
Koupantsis said so many other countries have similar high unemployment such as Spain, which is running at about 20 per cent.
“The Greek people are hard workers,” said Koupantsis, who himself at age 65 works from about 8:30 a.m. to about 11 p.m. “For the Greeks, it’s not eight hours, it’s 12-16 hours.”
Despite the current gloom hovering over his homeland, Koupantsis is confident that things will turn around in a couple of years.
And he feels even more reason to be grateful that he chose Alberta and Canada as his home 25 years ago.
“If you see what kind of problems Europe has, we are doing good,” he said.
On Thursday, Greek legislators passed the second and final austerity bill essential for releasing crucial bailout funds. Without the funds, Greece was expected to run out of money in mid July, according to the Associated Press.
Fears of a Greek default have weighed heavy on global markets in recent weeks. Investors have been fretting that a default could trigger a major banking crisis and potential turmoil in global markets.
Nick Sakkalis, owner of the Mythos eatery, said some of his relatives are feeling the impact after having their pensions cut. Among his family still over there is his mother, a sister, cousins and nephews.
His brother-in-law is among the fortunate ones who still has a job, working as a general mechanic for the ship industry. Some of Sakkalis’ younger relatives just graduated from university and cannot find jobs yet.
“If the country is going down, what can you do?” Sakkalis said. He said the government of Greece hasn’t properly taxed for years.
And now in the last couple of years, it’s calling upon people to pay more and more, he said. “Politics makes lots of mistakes,” said Sakkalis, who moved to Canada 42 years ago. “Everyone should pay the price.”
Sakkalis figures that some of people’s wages, including government officials, should be garnished to help the country get out of economic turmoil and back on its feet.
Sakkalis said he doesn’t like the actions of some protestors who end up destroying things and that ends up costing the government and the people money.
George Toppas of Red Deer said he believes that everyone should be concerned.
“This is a global situation that is happening,” Toppas said.