Greeks woke up this morning to a new era: banks were finally open after being closed down for three weeks, but new taxes meant coffee, tea, and even condoms all cost more. In downtown Athens, people queued up in an orderly fashion as the banks unlocked their doors at 8am, taking a number and reading the paper as they waited for their turn at the till. Many restrictions on transactions, including cash withdrawals, remained, however. Bank customers are still limited to withdrawals of 60 euros ($65) daily, and they're still not able to cash checks, only deposit them into their accounts. They're also not able to get cash abroad with their credit or cash cards, only make purchases.
Many goods and services also just became more expensive as a result of a rise in Value-Added Tax, which was approved by lawmakers last week among the first batch of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors. The VAT rose from 13% to 23%, making some meats, cooking oils other than olive oil, cocoa, vinegar, salt, flowers, firewood, fertilizer, sanitary napkins, and other basics all more expensive. Services hit by the new VAT increases include restaurants and cafes, funeral parlors, taxis, and tutorial centers. Lawmakers also agreed to deep reforms in Greece's pension system, including a gradual phasing out of all early-retirement options.