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NEWS: Protests against austerity and water privatization in Greece continue

Tens of thousands protest against austerity in Greece

Tens of thousands protest against austerity in Greece

The Los Angeles Times reports, “Under intense pressure from international lenders, Greece on Sunday announced a new set of austerity measures to meet deficit reduction targets and stamp out speculation that it would be forced out of the European single-currency zone. The measures, which include a two-year property tax, are intended to make up for revenue shortfalls that come to about $3 billion this year alone.” This follows a parliamentary vote in late-June that backed a $39.2 billion austerity program that includes cutting the public sector by 150,000 workers, freezing pensions and raising the retirement age, raising taxes on all income levels, as well as privatizing about $68 billion in state assets.

With respect to water privatization, the Guardian UK reported in June, “Stakes in various state assets will be placed on the auction block, in an effort to raise €50bn over the next four years. …Stakes in Thessaloniki Water are scheduled for sale. In 2012, the pace picks up, with €10bn of assets earmarked. This includes stakes in Athens Water.” The Washington Post specifies, “Sell 27.3 percent in the Athens utility and 40 percent in Thessaloniki. Keep network state-owned but privatize services.”

Global Water Intelligencer added, “Katerina Zaharopoulou, an analyst at Eurobank, has identified a number of action points which she believes Athens Water will need to address in order for it to become sufficiently attractive to generate interest from strategic investors. Among these are the implementation of a wastewater tariff increase in order to claw back the cost of building the 750,000m3/d Psytalia wastewater treatment plant, which is currently in operation, but losing money. The integration of outlying municipalities into Athens Water water supply network, meanwhile, should enable the company to take full advantage of retail water pricing structures, versus bulk water pricing at present.”

Protests against these austerity measures have been ongoing for months. The Los Angeles Times reports, “Over the weekend, thousands poured onto the streets of Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city, to protest austerity policies. In Athens, the Greek capital, youths firebombed a police bus in retaliation for the detention of more than 30 of the protesters in Thessaloniki.”

A list of what will be privatized in Greece can be read at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/greeces-austerity-program-at-a-glance/2011/06/29/AGQe5nqH_story.html.