Greece will not default – PM Tsipras

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By Jasmine Coleman
BBC News, Athens
Graffiti in Athens streets
Bleak years of hardship are reflected in the graffiti that is common in the streets of Athens
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Greece election

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As Greece’s new prime minister, anti-austerity crusader Alexis Tsipras is facing the challenge of turning around the country’s fortunes and pulling its people out of economic hardship.

A report published earlier this month said more than a third of Greek households were mired in poverty and debt.

Mr Tsipras and his far-left party, Syriza, have risen to power on a promise that “hope is coming”, vowing to renegotiate the country’s debt and splurge on public spending.

But how optimistic are Greeks feeling about the future?

On a sunny shopping street in central Athens, Dennis Deftereos smokes a cigarette as he reflects on the results of the weekend’s vote.

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Dennis Deftereos says Greece’s problems will take a generation to change
“I believe the party that has been elected to the government has not given – to me, at least – a clear idea of what they want to achieve and how they are going to proceed in achieving it,” he says.

The 61-year-old, who works in the tourism industry, says he is not confident the country’s new coalition will be able to successfully negotiate with the European Union and International Monetary Fund over its debt.

In any case, he says, that is not the only problem. Greece needs investment and jobs – the sort of “radical change” that he believes will take a generation to achieve.

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Tsipras’s speech was brilliant – it’s the first time I’ve seen a Greek politician speak with vision. But can he deliver?”

Peter Economides
Brand strategist
‘Challenging’
In the run-up to the elections, analysts urged the future government to identify new industries that could deliver such investment.

“Greece’s recovery prospects cannot be based on record tourist numbers and international demand for Greek cargo shipping,” wrote Manos Giakoumis on the website Macropolis.

One area that commentators say could provide growth is the country’s burgeoning start-up sector.

“In a few years’ time Greece will be thriving,” says Athina Pitta, founder of Glossopolis, a company that encourages tourism.

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Athina Pitta says start-up businesses can be part of the solution, and should be supported
She is based across the city at the Orange Grove – a bright, open-plan space set up at the Dutch embassy to support new businesses – and is part of a small community of young entrepreneurs choosing to stay in Greece and tackle the crisis head-on.

Athina set up her company last year to encourage tourists to come to Greece for language study.

She says operating here is “challenging” but that she hopes “many things will change” – such as reduced red tape and lower taxes.

Like many here, Athina has lived and worked elsewhere in Europe, but decided not to give up on Greece and set up her company elsewhere.

It is this so-called “brain drain” that is one of the biggest concerns for George Kollias, whose website Gigalize lets fans vote for bands who they want to perform in their local town. He says his country must hold onto its workforce.

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George Kollias says says Greece needs to hold on to talented business people
He is “hoping for the best” but is worried about Greece’s relationship with Europe under a Syriza-led government.

“My greatest fear is how will Europe and the world see this move,” he says.

“Having lived and worked abroad, I keep an ear open for what the sentiment is concerning Greece, and it doesn’t bode well.

“Most people seem to think that we Greeks are looking for an easy way out, trying to get back to the sinful economic ways of the past.”

‘Fear’
Brand strategist Peter Economides says Greeks need help to recover from what he describes as a “crisis of confidence”.

He adds that many people here who have not been so harshly affected by austerity measures are “scared” of Mr Tsipras and his party, Syriza.

Street vendors sell bread from a stall in Athens on 26 January 2015
A boosted minimum wage and meal subsidies are among the policies planned by Syriza
“There is so much fear,” he notes.

The change in government provides a “major opportunity for Greeks” but there is a lot at stake, Mr Economides says.

“Tsipras’s speech was brilliant – it’s the first time I’ve seen a Greek politician speak with vision. But can he deliver?”

Mr Economides says he has doubts about how Syriza’s plan to restart the economy – the Thessaloniki programme, which includes meal subsidies and devolution of powers – will be funded.

“And the big question for me is will Syriza change Europe – or will Europe change Syriza?”

“I hope Mr Tsipras can do it, I really do. Because if he doesn’t deliver, then that vision just disappears – and this country needs vision very badly.”

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