Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros is showing some solidarity with Greece this week, announcing that he will fund community centers across the country to provide health care and legal services. Mr. Soros is well-known for his philanthropic efforts across the world and support of democracy and liberal ideals. His move comes at a crucial time as the Greek government struggles to revive its economy and maintain control over its restive population.
George Soros targets hardest-hit areas
Soros’s plan is to establish solidarity centers in the most hard-hit areas. These centers will provide the basic social services that the government is finding itself unable to provide. With Greece having sunk into a prolonged depression, many Greek citizens are relying on nonprofits for handouts. How much money Soros is committing remains unclear.
Last year Mr. Soros donated millions of dollars to help pay for heating oil for local schools and other organizations. In total, he has provided heating oil for some 190 different organizations.
Previously, Mr. Soros has argued for debt relief for Greece and accused creditors of acting unfairly towards the country. According to Mr. Soros, Greece will never be able to repay its debts, and the current austerity measures will simply choke out economic growth and a potential recovery.
Conditions have continued to remain abysmal in Greece with the unemployment rate still sitting at 28%. Many of the unemployed have been unemployed for over a year. At the same time, the government has slashed the budgets of schools and hospitals by 60% and many pension programs have been cut.
Some analysts even argue that Greece has become a de facto failed state. The massive burden of its debt and strict austerity measures as laid out by the European Union, have made it all but impossible for the government to provide even basic social services.
Greek stability a calm before the storm?
While the country has suffered from massive protests in the past, conditions have remained calm over the last few months. Still, with continued cuts looming and the debt problem not seeming to resolve itself, the potential for future instability remains high.
Greece’s Council of States recently overturned an attempt to cut salaries of police and military members, ruling it unconstitutional. Should salaries eventually be cut, it could cause police and military members to grow more sympathetic with other members of society, and could even unravel the last real support the government has.
With no debt or austerity relief on the horizon, it may only be a matter of time before tensions boil over. Living standards and economic prospects have been sharply declining in recent years. If the government is continued to make cuts and the economy fails to post a true recovery, it may only be a matter of time before civil society takes to the streets and forces change.