(Reuters) – In Athens, the homeless are on the streets in growing numbers, soup kitchens feed twice as many people as a year ago, and the poor are diving into garbage bins in search of scrap they can sell.
Greece is close to breaking point as it struggles with austerity targets set by creditors, but this is just a foretaste of the nightmare of unrest, hunger and even anarchy that could engulf the debt-crippled nation if it is forced out of the euro.
If the exact economic impact of such a move is hard to nail down – newly issued drachmas devalued by up to 70 percent, runaway inflation, a banking meltdown, a collapse in trade – the implications for ordinary Greeks crushed by the debt crisis are even harder to predict.
Without international bailout cash, salaries and pensions would go unpaid and violence, political extremism and uncontrolled emigration could quickly follow.
After voting inconclusively for parties that opposed foreign-imposed austerity, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Greeks head to the polls again in a month’s time. This election is being portrayed internationally as a referendum on the single currency, even if Greeks do not yet see it that way.