Greece’s public deficit currently stands at 13.6% and the UK isn’t that far behind. Austerity measures are planned to reduce the Greek deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. This will be achieved through a variety of spending cuts and tax rises. This is the price that Greece will have to pay to receive a £95 billion bailout. Wages are likely to be frozen, cuts will be evident throughout the economy in areas such as education and pensions and the general population may see a tax rise.
In response to these proposals, on which Parliament will vote by the end of the week, the Greek economy has suffered from widespread strikes. Flights were grounded, trains stopped, schools shut, hospitals closed their doors, offices closed for business and those close to retirement are considering resignation before the measures are passed.
As life almost comes to a stop in Greece, could the UK follow suit? It’s no secret that the UK deficit is enormous – £163 billion or about 12% of GDP. Nor is it a secret that spending cuts and tax rises are inevitable. Furthermore, over the past two years, there have been several high profile strikes. (See article The Winter of Discontent: the sequel? and Turbulence in the air). A spokesman from The Public and Commercial Services Union said:
“If the cuts are anything like what is being suggested, industrial action by the unions is not only likely, it’s inevitable”.
The bailout of Greece may avert one Greek tragedy, but another one could be just around the corner and that’s not just for Greece.
Greece brought to half over general strike over cuts BBC News (5/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans Reuters (4/5/10)
Bank of England Governor: poll winner will be out of power for a generation Independent, Andrew Grice and Colin Brown (30/4/10)
Flights grounded, shops shut in Greek strike Channel 4 News, Kris Jepson (5/5/10)
Greek strikers hit Athens streets over austerity plan BBC News (4/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans The Economic Times (4/5/10)
- What is the purpose behind the strikes? How effective are they likely to be?
- What are the costs of strikes to a) consumers b) businesses c) the wider economy?
- Why is collective bargaining more effective than individual bargaining?
- Why could the Greek picture be a possible forecast of the UK economy after the May election?
- Are strikes a price worth paying if the government is to reduce its debt?