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New bailout agreement fails to quell Greek anger

Greeks on Tuesday were angry and sceptical saying the newly approved bailout package would not help their country, just hours after European Union finance ministers signed off on an deal in Brussels.

Euro zone finance ministers sealed a $130 billion Euro ($ 172 billion US) bailout for Greece to avert a chaotic default in March.  Private bondholders were persuaded to take greater losses, and Athens promised to commit to deep cuts.

In central Athens people were said they felt no relief from the agreement.

“Not at all optimistic because I see that all this loan will go back to the pockets of those who gave it. All those who gave us money will take this money back. Out of this 130 (billion) Greece won’t keep even five. So what’s the gain?” said 67-year-old pensioner Achilleas Adam.

Another Athens resident Christos Kutras said  he felt angry and compared the European Union leaders to loan sharks.

“What money? The money that they bring will be placed in a safe so they can take the interest. These are loan sharks. What money? Mrs. Merkel? The Hitler? Who? These are conquerors,” said Kutras, a 65-year-old store owner.

Many Greeks, already suffering from five consecutive years of recession, are increasingly angry about the  measures, which are unlikely to ease an economy where one in five is unemployed, shops close one after another and households are tightening their budget.

Development Ministry Worker, Leonidas Papagianis said the measures imposed by the Greek government and its lenders were taking away dignity from the Greek people.

“Time will show the results. But we already know what this will be. It is haircut to the wage earners, haircut to the pensioners. Haircut, haircut, haircut. How long will these haircuts continue? They have done away with the Greek people’s dignity.

“At this moment we have become the worst people economically. Greeks are missing dignity at this moment. The elderly, honest, logical and righteous people. So what do they want? To turn Greece into a mental  institution? Is that what they want?” said Papagianis as he made his way to work.

After 13 hours of talks, ministers finalised measures to cut Greece’s debt to 120.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, a fraction above the target, to secure its second rescue in less than two years and meet a bond repayment next month.

By agreeing that the European Central Bank would distribute its profits from bond buying and private bondholders would take more losses, the ministers reduced the debt to a point that should secure funding from the International Monetary Fund and help shore up the 17-country currency bloc.

But the austerity measures wrought from Greece are widely unpopular among the population and may hold difficulties for a country which is due to hold an election in April. Further protests could test politicians’  commitment to cuts in wages, pensions and jobs.

Newspapers in Greece all led with news of the deal.

“Thriller deal at break of dawn” had the ‘Ethnos’ newspaper whilst “Ta Nea” read “Salvation under terms”.

Every government in the currency union will also have to approve the package. Northern creditors, such as  Germany, had pressed for even tougher measures to be placed on Greece, but Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he was very confident a majority in parliament would approve the package.

Some economists say there are still questions over whether Greece can pay off even a reduced debt burden.

A return to economic growth could take as much as a decade, a prospect that brought thousands of Greeks onto the streets to protest on Sunday. The cuts will deepen a recession already in its fifth year, hurting government revenues.