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'The Numbers Are Getting Better, The People Are Getting Worse'

Elias Tilligadas and Katerina Margeritou have both had their salaries cut by the Greek government.

Elias Tilligadas and Katerina Margeritou have both had their salaries cut by the Greek government. Nikolia Apostolou/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Nikolia Apostolou/NPR

When we talked to Katerina Margaritou two years ago, she was worried about how she would pay for her wedding dress. She was working for the government as a chemist, but hadn't received a paycheck in months.

Katerina was starting to lose faith in her country, starting to think she and her fiancee, Elias Tilligadas, would be better off leaving Greece.

The Greek economy has continued to shrink since we last talked to Katerina. But this year the Greek government and the IMF are predicting the economy will finally turn around. So I called Elias and Katerina again this week to see how they were feeling.

Elias and Katerina didn't wind up leaving Greece. Her paychecks started coming again, and she got back pay for the time when the checks stopped.

The Greek government is starting to fix some of its fundamental problems, says Nicholas Economides, a professor at NYU. To crack down on tax evasion, the government now puts property tax on power bills. So if people don't pay the tax, the power gets cut off.

The government is also cutting expenses. Katerina's government salary was cut by 30 percent. Elias, who works as a government food inspector, had his salary cut by 45 percent.

The couple, not surprisingly, is underwhelmed by the prediction that the Greek economy will start growing again this year.

"The numbers are getting better; the people are getting worse," Elias says. "Our lives are getting worse."

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