Greece: after austerity in an election year

By March 19, 2019

Greece (MNN) – Greece is in an election year. This year, billions could be riding on the result.

The International Monetary Fund is keeping a close eye on the races because politicians are in a season of promises. The sitting Prime Minister, in a bid to keep his seat, sounds like he’s about to undo all the gains made by the economy. AMG International’s President and CEO Anastasios (Tasos) Ioannidis explains, “There are the European Parliament elections in May. There are also municipal elections at the same time.  Then there are Parliamentary elections for Greece itself.  Right now, they’re scheduled for October, but there’s speculation that they would be moved up to May to coincide with the other two elections.”

The Mess

(Photo courtesy of AMG International)

A whole new government could be inheriting quite a mess to fix. The economy floundered to near insolvency in 2010,  before the IMF stepped in three international bailouts to the tune of 326 billion Euros ($370.2 billion). With each payout came a round of austerity measures, and the impact of those measures still lingers.

The monies staved off the threat of bankruptcy and propped up the economy but created a crisis in the form of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings. As a result, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank 25 percent and created an exodus of workers searching for a better life elsewhere.  When asked if the election results would impact AMG’s ministry in Greece, Ioannidis responded, “It’ll affect the operating environment in which we find ourselves. For the last four years, Greece has been under a government that has relied on taxation to basically balance the books.”

The Impact

Income tax is 45-percent for those earning more than 40,000 Euros ($45,427) and 22 percent for the first 20,000 Euros ($22,714,). Coupled with an unemployment rate that is the highest in the Eurozone, and voters want relief on two fronts: corruption and taxes. Ioannidis explains, “Taxation in Greece, right now, is excessive. They have tried not to cut the government sector, but instead increase taxes to support the government sector. There is a chance that if the government changes, the taxes will be lower and the next government will try to reduce expenses.”

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

Even the promise of jobs programs and a restoration of half of the minimum wage cut (11- percent for the first time in a decade) won’t be enough to satisfy voters who struggled through the austerity years. The only fix people feel good about are lower taxes and reduced expenses.  “This would result in more financial and economic draw for Greece which would be good for the country and for us.  It would allow us to have more local support and that would be a help, so in that sense, it would affect our ministry.”

The Intersection of Prayer

Taking a step back from the minutiae of politics and elections, Ioannidis reflects that while the results will have impact, they’re merely the backdrop to the bigger picture. AMG International is a Gospel-first global ministry that meets people’s deepest needs — spiritual and physical — by inspiring hope, restoring lives and transforming communities. To that end, “We should pray that the people who are elected, serve the country well; that the outcome of the election will be a government that is stable; that it will not be an unclear result (and therefore the country would be hard to govern).”

(Photo courtesy of AMG International)

That means other ministries can continue unimpeded. In Greece, AMG has Christian bookstores, childcare ministries, newspaper evangelism, literature and periodical publishing and distribution, and a prison ministry. They also have extensive work with the refugee population since Greece is the gateway country to Europe. Plus, “Please be praying for St. Luke’s Hospital in Greece (Thessaloniki). That is a very large ministry that reaches about 75-thousand people a year. Each of them is a unique opportunity to tangibly express the love of Christ with.”

In keeping the main thing the ‘main thing’, he asks prayer “…that God will work in the hearts of the people and keep them open to the message of the Gospel and receptive to the message of the Gospel and then for a stable government to come out of the elections.”

 

 

Headline photo courtesy Thomas Wolf, Wikimedia/CC

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