Today, people across the country woke up to a palpable atmosphere of tension in the wake of the government's announcement of a fresh package of austerity measures including major wages cuts, which will prompt a significant decline in living standards. Civil servants and pensioners will be worst affected, but private sector workers will also lose out. Perhaps the most galling aspect of this latest development is the fact that Prime Minister Georges Papandreou announced the austerity package under orders from the foreign powers that have now assumed control of our country: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU).

Just 50 years after their creation, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) abolished Easter and Christmas bonuses worth two months pay and holiday bonuses for civil servants and pensioners. These will be replaced by other payments, which are so low they cannot be viewed as anything more than a handout, which in all probability will not survive a subsequent round of belt-tightening.

But Mr Papandreou was not content to implement these brutal and unprecedented cuts that will have a major impact on the social reality of this country and on the lives of its civil servants: he has also announced a supplementary cut of 8% in public service pay, which will effectively reduce public sector salaries by 20% in just two months ! In the wake of these measures, individual civil servants can now look forward to losing between 15% and 30% of their annual income.

No one believes wages cuts are justified

There is no denying the utter disregard for social progress in these austerity measures, which are worse than anything that Greece has seen in more than a century. The fact that they are in blatant contradiction to the election and post-election promises of both the Prime minister and PASOK will clearly undermine the political credibility of Papandreou and his entire government. From an economic point of view, they will have a negative effect on our ability to produce wealth that will compromise the goal of reducing the public spending deficit.

The GDP of our country is set to fall by a record 4% 2009, the most dramatic decline in 50 years — a slump only exceeded by a 6.4% drop in 1974 prompted by the joint effect the oil crisis and the invasion of northern Cyprus by the Turkish army, which followed the fall of the military junta. And worse still, they will have no positive impact on Greece's public debt, which is set to increase from 115% in 2009 to 140% in 2014.

Quite apart from their crippling effect on the economy, we cannot ignore the fact that these measures are ethically unacceptable in as much as they place a huge burden on civil servants and pensioners instead of seeking to recover funds certain groups that have taken advantage of the wholesale appropriation of public funds. We cannot but oppose a cruel policy which fails to distribute public wealth fairly, which remains the preserve of the plutocracy. No one in Greece believes that wages cuts are justified by the public debt and the public spending deficit. Worse still, although they have just been announced, these measures have yet to fully convince Europe, which may opt to make further demands if it deems these to be necessary.