Greece and how capital controls changed life
It was June 2015. The Greek government, led by SYRIZA, was for the first time responsible for the fate of the country; in an extremely difficult situation for the country. We were all anxious to see how the IMF and the EU would “welcome” the new government; that was rather “hostile” against the economic policy; the two organizations were suggesting. Or enforcing if you prefer; since 2009. That was when the crises started in Greece.
The Greek government decided to make a referendum in Greece; ask whether the people wanted the government to follow the measures requested by the EU and IMF. Or allow the government of SYRIZA to maintain a harsh position and negotiate more. The later could mean that the country would be on its own. The risk of bankruptcy was more visible than ever before.
A sudden change in a day
However, I remember it was Saturday and banks were of course closed. Then we heard on the news that the country would not be getting any more funds; until the negotiation was over. That meant that bank would not be opening during the following week. Furthermore, capital controls were suddenly introduced; which meant that there would be a limit of 60 euro withdrawals per day from ATMs. Everybody panicked. Including me of course.
People rushed to withdraw money from bank ATMs. Most of us thought that it would be all over; that bankruptcy would be unavoidable. There were literally millions of people gathered outside of banks; waiting their turn to get money from the ATM. The could wait for 3 hours or more to find out eventually that there was not more money in the ATM. They would have to wait more for the banks to put more money in… Supermarkets and places that guide people that are in need for healthy nutritional therapies; made a record in sales that day.
Not even dog food was available until the evening. Any kind of food just disappeared from the shelves in a few hours. The shelves were simply left empty. To tell you the truth; me and my family didn’t go the buy stuff. But went to an ATM during the night. Things then were a bit better; and got that 60 euros we were allowed. This thing kept happening for at least 10 days.
The banks in Greece remained closed
Fortunately, food, fuel and medicine stocks lasted for many more days because Greek companies faced a real difficult situation. Of course banks were closed, as I said. This meant that they had no access to their capitals. They were not allowed to send money; abroad to make imports of any kind. Also, they could not cash out cheques. Parents were not allowed to send money to their children who were for example studying; since not funds at all could leave the country during that period.
Only e-banking services were available. Strictly between accounts in Greece; not abroad. Older people had far more problems. This was because most of them did not have credit as well as debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs. They came to realize that all their money and pensions were “frozen”. For at least a week. They didn’t even have the option to go to a bank as well as issue a new card.
The limitations and situation with capital controls in Greece now
After that first sock, and as weeks passed; people got used to the situation. Companies eventually were offered ways to let money go out for imports. Banks opened and the withdrawal limit was not raised. There was another option to get all the money once every way from the ATM. All 420 euros at once; not just 6 euros per day. It’s almost a year now. The situation is more; or less unchanged; and nobody knows when things will change.
Although you can make big bank transfers; as well as purchases. Like buy a house, for example; with the money you have in the bank. You can’t withdraw cash from your accounts; apart from those 420 euros per week. It’s really strange. I can’t explain it with other words. Still there are many limitations. For example; most credit cards and debit cards issues by Greek banks, are not accepted for purchases abroad. This means; for instance, that I am unable to buy stuff from Ebay. Or Amazon. Or use Paypal for any reason. Still; people have managed to find some “hacks” around that too.