Biggest Killer in Greece Is the Austerity Imposed by International Creditors
Just prior to the Christmas holidays, Greek parliamentarian Panagiotis Kouroumplis stood up in Parliament and denounced the New Democracy-led government for murder. This came in reaction to an official report, which detailed the failure of the Greek health system to deal with the COVID 19 pandemic. It pointed in particular to the ICU beds in private hospitals whose incompetent operation had turned them into death beds for critically ill patients, as a result of the government’s refusal to expand the number of ICU beds in public hospitals. Greece has suffered a total of nearly 21,000 deaths due to the Coronavirus.
While he was sanctioned by Parliament and even thrown out of the SYRIZA party for his statement, Kouroumplis in fact understated the case. The full responsibility for these deaths lies with the austerity policies forced on Greece since 2010 (the beginning of the debt crisis) by its international creditors and the European Union. Official figures on the number of deaths from 2010 to 2021 show a 40% increase, which would come down to the worst massacre in Greece’s history since the Nazi occupation. The increase can be attributed in large part to the collapse of the health system.
According to official statistics, over the course of the post-World War II period, Greece’s population steadily increased, peaking at 11.2 million in 2004 – which was three years after it joined the Eurozone. Since then, the total population has steadily decreased, and now stands at 10.4 million, a loss of some 800,000 people, mostly due to mass migration, which has greatly accelerated since 2010, when the first memorandum was signed.
In the period 2000 to 2009, the number of deaths fluctuated between 102,000 and 108,000. Since 2010, there has been a dramatic increase, while the total population decreased. The number of deaths in 2010 was 109,084. By 2015, despite a slight decline after a second memorandum was signed in 2012, the number had gone up to 121,183. It was in precisely those years that Greece’s public health system was severely reduced, under orders of its creditors.
At the end of 2015, Greece, then under the SYRIZA party, was compelled to sign a third memorandum, under the threat of being fully cut off by the European Central Bank and/or thrown out of the Eurozone. Unable to reverse the cuts in the healthcare system, the number of deaths again began to climb. According to the Greek Ministry of Interior, there were 143,850 deaths in 2021.
Greece’s mortality rate per 1,000 increased from 9.8 in 2009 to an estimated 12.05 for 2021, according to the CIA World Fact Book (https://www.indexmundi.com/greece/death_rate.html). Since the causes of death have generally not changed, the increase can easily be attributed to economic causes, in particular to the contraction of the economy by 35%, the collapse of the health system, protracted unemployment, and the increase in poverty, especially among elderly retirees, who have seen a dramatic drop in their pensions.