Greece: Numbers Improve, Problems Worsen in 2014
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece assumes the presidency of the European Union Wednesday, starting 2014 with a promise by the government to pull the country out of a six-year recession, keep a balanced budget and effectively end a financial crisis that rattled the euro.
"In 2014, Greece will return to the markets and start to become a normal country again," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised New Year's address. "After six unending, painful years, 2014 will herald the prospect of growth ... What's important is that we've avoided the worst."
But have they?
With most of the 240 billion euros ($330 billion) in bailout loans already paid out, Greece still has an unsustainably high national debt, faces the threat of renewed political instability, and has more than one-in-four jobless and steadily sliding into poverty.Greeks greeted the New Year after many spent hours lining up in tax offices to pay austerity levies on time. And heavy smog has returned to the country's capital after decades this winter as households left with no heating throw scrap wood and garbage onto the fireplace to try to keep warm. Here's a look at some of Greece's most pressing problems: NO JOB, NO INSURANCE Greece's financial tailspin wiped out nearly a quarter of its economy and roughly a million jobs. From 7.2% before the recession in 2008, unemployment exploded, reaching 27% in the third quarter of 2013, giving Greece the worst job rating among the 34 advanced economies in the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. More than 70% of the unemployed have been out of work for more than a year, leaving most to rely on charity after losing monthly benefit payments and health insurance. "It's inconceivable that someone with the misfortune of having no work cannot have proper access to state health care," said George Patoulis, head of the Athens Medical Association.
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