‘It’s going to be bad, whatever happens’: Greece on edge as eurozone exit looms

Greece’s spiralling debt crisis saw cash withdrawals total €400m on Monday. While anxiety varies around Athens, few Greeks see benefit in leaving the euro

“Everybody’s doing it,” said Joanna Christofosaki, in front of a Eurobank cash dispenser in the leafy Athens neighbourhood of Kolonaki. “Our friends have all done it. Nobody wants their money to be worthless tomorrow. Nobody wants to be unable to get at it.”

A researcher in the archaeology department at the Academy of Athens, Christofosaki said she knew plenty of people who had “€10,000 somewhere at home” and plenty of others who chose to keep their stash at the office. Was she among them? “If I was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”

With time fast running out to secure a desperately needed €7.2bn in new rescue funds before the end of the month, when Athens is due to repay €1.5bn in loans to the International Monetary Fund, anxious Greeks have begun withdrawing money from their country’s banks at an unprecedented rate.

Bank deposits have been falling steadily since October and now stand at their lowest level since 2004. Withdrawals in recent weeks have averaged €200-250m a day, but on Monday – after the shock collapse of last-ditch talks between the Greek government and its eurozone and international lenders – withdrawals surged to €400m.

“People are very concerned,” said the owner of a small company who asked not to be named. “I think those who could, have already transferred some money abroad. And lots of others have taken out a few thousand, enough to see them through any immediate crisis. I have.”

Sofia, who runs a boutique in one of Athens’ wealthier suburbs, said she and her husband had €15,000 in a safe in the garage, “just to be sure we’re not caught out.”

Elsewhere, an anonymous car concessionaire confessed to “getting into gold a little bit. Not much. But it’s safe, isn’t it? That’s what they say.”

Nikos Grigoriou, who runs a software consultancy, said the possible introduction of capital controls – as happened two years ago in Cyprus – was the big worry now. “If they fail to reach a deal and Greece defaults, there’ll be a lot of panic. Anything could happen.”

Full article: ‘It’s going to be bad, whatever happens’: Greece on edge as eurozone exit looms (The Guardian)

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