Category Archives: Poverty

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime

We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Chart of the Day: European celebratory isolation


From Eurostat, which reports:

13.0% of the population aged 16 or over living in the European Union (EU) reported in 2014 not being able to get together with friends/family for a drink or meal at least once a month due to lack of resources, while 17.8% could not afford to regularly participate in a leisure activity.

Working age people (aged 25 to 64) were slightly more affected. The shares in this age group stood at 13.9% and 19.6% respectively, while they were 11.0% and 16.3% for young people (aged 16 to 24) and 11.2% and 13.5% for the elderly (aged 65 or over).

Around one third of the population in Hungary (36.5%), Romania (35.7%) and Bulgaria (30.0%) said they could not afford to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month. High shares were also observed in Greece (20.7%), Malta (19.2%), Ireland (18.4%) and Lithuania (17.4%). The elderly in Romania are particularly affected: in the age group over 65, the share there reaches 43.0%. In Hungary, the share is higher among the young (40.0%).

At the opposite end the scale, the share was below 1% in all age groups in Sweden. Less than 5% of the population feel unable to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month also in Finland (1.5%), Denmark (3.2%), the Netherlands (3.3%), the Czech Republic (3.4%) and Luxembourg (4.1%).

Chart of day: Rich gain most during post-crash

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

From the latest Income Inequality Report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report on growing income disparities in the 36-nation group:

Between 2007 and 2010, average real income fell by 2.1% on average, with a stronger decline at the bottom (-5.3%) and the top (-3.6%). While the recovery since 2010 improved average incomes, more rapid growth of top incomes (2.3%) and weaker improvement at the bottom and at the middle (1.1% and 1.3%) increased inequality, although only marginally.

By 2013/14, incomes at the bottom of the distribution are still well below pre-crisis levels while top and middle incomes had recovered much of the ground lost during the crisis.

During the economic downturn, low- and high-income households lost the most. During the recovery, high-income households gained more due
to unequal growth of labour incomes and changes in redistribution.

El País reports on the growing income gap in Spain, one of the nation’s hardest hit by the Great Recession:

Inequality is one of the biggest consequences of the economic crisis in Spain. The latest Income Inequality Update by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that between 2010 and 2014, Spanish workers with the lowest salaries suffered the greatest wage cuts of all OECD member states after Portugal.

“In Spain, despite the prolonged period of strong job creation, stimulated by the 2012 labor reform, persistently high levels of long-term unemployment, falling real wages and persisting labor market segmentation translated into a sharp fall of labor incomes, especially at the bottom,” reads the report, which was released on Thursday.

Spain also has the highest rate of poor workers after Turkey and Chile.

“Higher-income households benefited more from the recovery than those with middle and lower incomes,” states the study. “The fruits of the economic recovery have not been evenly shared.”

In Spain, inequality grew in 2014 even though the economy was growing at a rate of 1.4%. The reports finds that the average Gini coefficient of disposable household income – “a standard measure of inequality that takes the value of 0 when everybody has the same income and 1 when one person has all the income” – reached 0.346. In 2007 that figure was 0.324 while in 2012 it was 0.335, according to the OECD.

In 2014, the bottom 10% of workers in Spain earned just 2% of all income in the country while the top 10% earned 24.7%.

Chart of the day II: At-risk European Union children

The black bar represents the average for all European Union states.

The black bar represents the average for all European Union states.

From Eurostat, which reports:

In 2015, around 25 million children, or 26.9% of the population aged 0 to 17, in the European Union  [EU] were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This means that they were living in households in at least one of the following three conditions: at-risk-of-poverty after social transfers  [income poverty], severely materially deprived or with very low work intensity. Since 2010, the proportion of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU has slightly decreased, from 27.5% in 2010 to 26.9% in 2015. However contrasting trends were observed across the EU Member States.

These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on the occasion of the Universal Children’s Day celebrated on 20 November.

Share of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion rate highest in Romania and Bulgaria, lowest in EU Nordic Member States

In 2015 more than a third of children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in six Member States: Romania  [46.8%], Bulgaria  [43.7 %], followed by Greece  [37.8%], Hungary  [36.1%], Spain  [34.4%] and Italy  [33.5%]. At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest shares of children being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Sweden  [14.0%], Finland  [14.9%] and Denmark  [15.7%], ahead of Slovenia  [16.6%], the Netherlands  [17.2%], the Czech Republic and Germany  [both 18.5%] in 2015.

Largest decrease in children at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate in Latvia, highest increase in Greece

In approximately half of the EU Member States, the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate has grown from 2010 to 2015, with the highest increases being recorded in Greece  [from 28.7% in 2010 to 37.8% in 2015, or +9.1 percentage points], Cyprus  [+7.1 pp], and Italy  [+4.0 pp]. In contrast, the largest decrease among EU Member States was observed in Latvia  [from 42.2% to 31.3%, or -10.9 pp], followed by Bulgaria  [-6.1 pp] and Poland  [-4.2 pp]. At the EU level, the percentage of the total population aged below 18 being at risk of poverty or social exclusion decreased by 0.6 pp from 27.5% in 2010 to 26.9% in 2015.

Low levels of parental education significantly increase risk of poverty or social exclusion among children in all EU Member States

The proportion of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU decreases with the education level of their parents. In 2015, almost two thirds  [65.5%] of all children whose parents had a low education level  [at the most lower secondary education] were at risk of poverty in the EU in 2015, compared with 30.3% of children residing with parents who had a medium education level  [upper secondary education] and 10.6 % of children with parents with a higher education level  [tertiary education]. This pattern held in all EU Member States in 2015.

The largest differences between the share of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion who lived in a low and in a high education level household were found in Slovakia  [94.4% of children in a low education level household compared with 11.0% in a high education level household; or a gap of 83.4 pp], Bulgaria  [79.4 pp] and the Czech Republic  [78.6 pp]. In contrast, the smallest differences were observed in Denmark  [34.7 pp], closely followed by Estonia  [35.7 pp] and Portugal  [38.4 pp].

Maps of the day: New laws hindering U.S. voters

From the Center for Investigative Reporting, a map of states which had new laws on the vote that effectively served to hinder voting by poor and minority communities, including those facing legal challenges:


And from BBC News, a map of the outcome of the Presidential elecion:


Quote of the day: What elites failed to recognize

From Klaus Brinkbäumer, editor-in-chief of Der Speigel, Germany’s leading news magazine, in an editorial headlined “An Absurd and Dangerous President”:

The United States has voted for a dangerously inexperienced and racist man — one who was swept into the White House by an army of disenfranchised white working- and middle class Americans. It’s a movement that now threatens democracy around the world.


Trump had no ideas, but he sensed that the left-behinds yearn for strength. After Barack Obama’s victories, the pundits said that demographic change meant that no US election could be won again without the Latino vote. But Trump gave the Latinos a big fuck you, insinuating that the left-behinds are superior. His words were as crude as those spoken in Germany 80 years ago.

One hesitates to put these thoughts to paper, because they have slowly become clichés, but here it goes. For one, the media should be delving far deeper into social problems and not writing about superficial things. In other words, it needs to stop focusing on lies and angry outbursts, which only serves to inflate the importance of false entertainers. And despite Clinton’s defeat, politicians and anyone involved in education should try to reestablish ties to those who feel left behind and strive to achieve true equal opportunity.

This election was about the impotent and about power. Trump, be it strategically or accidentally, understood that the army of the powerless was so enormous that it could become a movement and carry him into the White House. He knew well what he was risking — the possibility that, in their rage, they would set fires, break all rules and, as a result, could destroy democracy. In America. And, following the election of this absurd president, potentially around the world.

Austerity grabs hold in Egypt, the army’s called out

In January, 2011, a wave of massive demonstrations overthrew the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The revolution was greatly assisted by the American State Department, which had been busily furnishing secure digital communications devices to dissidents opposed to Middle Eastern and African governments the U.S. thought needed to go.

But when the Egyptian people elected as President Mohamed Morsi, the U.S. didn’t like it, he was ousted in a coup headed by a general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, trained at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

But the combination of two revolutions and the ongoing shocks of the Great Recession sent Egypt spiraling ever deeper into debt.

Finally Sisi bit the bullet and applied to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout loan, and negotiations began.

The inevitable demand of the IMF: Austerity

The Economist, the magazine with the world’s richest readership, offers a neoliberal take on what happened next:

Back in August the IMF had offered the former general a $12bn lifeline, but it came with tough conditions attached. At long last he has fulfilled them, and the IMF money will soon start to flow.

So far Mr Sisi has attempted three difficult but necessary things, as demanded by the IMF. On November 3rd he allowed the Egyptian pound to float. It is now trading at a market rate of 18 or so to the dollar; previously it had been propped up at a crazily overvalued rate of about 8.8. However, it is still not clear whether this float is genuine. The pound could easily come under renewed pressure, and there is no guarantee that the government will not suspend the float and see the black market return. External credit-card transactions are still restricted, so the market is not free even now.

Similarly, the other two main IMF conditions have been fulfilled only up to a point. In August parliament passed a long-promised law introducing a value-added tax. It is subject to many exemptions; but it will still bring in badly needed revenue, and the rate is set to rise next year. The work of reducing government subsidies was also advanced last week, with increases of up to 50% in the local-currency price of petrol, after earlier rises in the price of electricity. But both are still well below their true market prices. And, lamentably, food subsidies have not been cut at all—despite their cost, complexity and vulnerability to fraud. Rather than subsidising the price of bread, the government would help more people if it simply handed out cash to poor Egyptians.

And now the loan is coming through

From United Press International:

The International Monetary Fund approved a $12 billion loan for Egypt, an effort to revive the country’s struggling economy by “restoring stability and confidence in the economy, and implementing structural reforms that will create jobs,” officials said.

The approval allows for the first installment of the three-year loan, $2.75 billion, to be immediately disbursed. The remainder of the loan will be phased in over the duration of the program, subject to five reviews, the IMF said.

“The Egyptian authorities have developed a homegrown economic program, which will be supported under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility, to address longstanding challenges in the Egyptian economy,” Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director and chair, said.

IMF officials said political instability, regional security issues and the global economic slowdown have hobbled the Egyptian economy. Some of the issues that led to the country’s economic instability included high government deficit, public debt and weak job growth.

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