ATHENS – It can be depressing to walk through the streets of Greece’s capital city and see row after row of empty store fronts, as scores of thousands of businesses have closed since a crushing economic crisis began four years ago this spring.
Many are filled with the detritus of dashed dreams, stores that had been open for decades or more littered with the leftovers of unsold goods, dusty mannequins and filthy floors obscured behind grimy windows.
Many Greeks, crushed by harsh austerity measures imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders, have been reduced to window shopping with their disposable income cut almost in half by big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.
They are the lucky ones, who still have jobs in a country with a record 27.4 percent unemployment – more than 60 percent for those under 25. Forgotten is Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ promise last year to create 75,000 jobs in January for the young.
Here a passer-by looks at the window of a clothing and shoe shop in central Athens as the government assumed the symbolic, rotating six-month European Union Presidency with the promise of bringing jobs to the EU, which it hasn’t been able to do for Greece.