The crisis in Greece has affected substantially the local communities by harming the economy of the country’s municipalities; however the municipality of Athens has found a way to stay economically efficient according to the financial performance indicators.
According to these indicators the total income of the municipality of Athens was reduced during and after the outbreak of the crisis. Two of the main factors that caused this reduction are the fact that people cannot afford to pay the whole amount of taxes and also the government still owes money to the municipality.
“The government hasn’t yet given to the municipality part of government funds from 2009 and 2016 and reduced part of the government budget to 45%”, states the Economic Department of the municipality.
However the municipality manages to be economically autonomous, as the graphic shows. In fact, this means that it can sustain itself without necessarily depending on money from external sources. To achieve this goal in a financially and politically unstable environment the municipality has reduced the total expenses, mainly the money spent for the salaries of its employees.
“The municipality did not proceed to any reduction of the services it offers to the citizens”, comments the Economic Department.
On the contrary, since the crisis has created new social needs, the municipality had the obligation to take more action in the field of social policy. In order to help the citizens, the municipality has actually increased the operational expenditure on social services while at the same time reduced the taxes.
As the Economic Department states: “The municipality of Athens has initiated actions like the Social Market, the Social School, the Social Pharmacy and the Homeless Shelter, as well as programs providing first need goods, health care and shelter.”
One of the most important initiatives of the municipality of Athens is the program of Social Policy 2015-2019. The program includes actions to tackle unemployment and poverty, offer medical care, food and home and also help all the vulnerable groups. Most of these initiatives are founded by European subsidies, as a solution to the lack of financial resources.
Although these actions show a sustainable and functional municipality, there are some faults in the process.
“The funds from the European Union can only sustain short-term projects, for 2-3 years as to say, the municipality can’t rely on them for its sustainability,” says George Βraoudakis, Managing Director CMT Prooptiki.
For improvement and more long-term results for the community George Βraoudakis adds that the municipality should cooperate with other social bodies, for example NGOs, in order to have a concerted effort. Additionally, it should also give priority to investment and turn to the private sector for funding.
“There is a need for big projects that will make the city more functional and increase the business,” he says.
All in all, the municipality of Athens has taken some very important steps towards overcoming the crisis and was also recently nominated among the 31 most successful and sustainable cities, according the international report “Cities of Opportunities 6” published by PwC.