To say that life has been hard in Greece over the past five years wouldn't do the situation justice. At its worst, the youth unemployment rate exceeded 60 per cent and, even though the country is about to see better days, there's little for this generation to look forward to in the immediate future.
After a golden decade in Greece, there was an abrupt economic collapse in late 2009, as a booming market gave way to non-stop bankruptcies. When I moved to Athens in 2007, its cultural scene was thriving. Even as the global financial crisis started to unfold at the end of that year, most Greeks still thought that their country would come through it relatively unscathed.
Yet what followed the general election in October 2009 was the most depressing spectacle. It wasn't only the political uncertainty and the steep financial decline. People shut themselves in--the streets emptied as soon as the sun went down.
As consumer demand dried up, successive governments borrowed heavily from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to recapitalise the nation's badly run banks. They imposed punishing taxes on homeowners and businesses, while slashing expenditure on health, education and welfare. Much-needed reforms to make starting an enterprise easier were widely advertised, yet these still haven't materialised.
The country lost a quarter of its GDP and has been in recession since 2009. Waves of protest have rightfully rocked the establishment. Even a neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, was pitched by some as a solution to the lack of political willpower. Thankfully, the arrest of its leadership seems to have ended that chapter, but the ruling New Democracy-Pasok coalition is still paying for its indifference: the left- wing opposition party, Syriza, is ahead in the opinion polls by up to 10 per cent with its anti-austerity campaign.
But there is some...