In the ongoing saga of restoring some economic wellness to modern Greece, it seems the people have finally had enough. What started with an initiative to privatize cultural heritage sites--something met with great resistance from both the Association of Greek Archaeologists as well as government. A brand new idea proposed by said government is causing more of an uproar: the cash-strapped government has announced plans to include prime properties around the Acropolis, and other landmark buildings in Athens, in its privatisation programme.

The Archaeological News Network reports that 'furious opponents marched through the city centre at the weekend to denounce the "illegal sale" of the country's heritage. More than four years into debt-stricken Greece's prolonged economic crisis, many described the step as the height of humiliation for a nation already hit by excoriating austerity and record levels of poverty and unemployment'. Prominent leftwing campaigner Petros Constantinou said:

"The government is constantly trying to convey the message that the economy is a success story but in reality that is not the case at all. The decision to put public buildings up for sale is not just proof that they are nowhere near reaching targets but plain wrong when they could be exploited for public benefit."

The Athenian government is under immense pressure to enact reforms for the release of a long overdue €10.1bn (£8.5bn) aid instalment from international creditors. In an effort to accomplish these reforms, the privatization programme was called into life with the goal of raising €50bn for the state by 2015. It has, however, been problem-plagued from the day bankrupt Athens became the ward of the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund in May 2010. The move has been protested against so loudly that the goal has been scaled back to raising €11bn by 2016.
Just a little while ago, the archaeological council (KAS) allowed two of Athens' most significant ancient sites--the Stoa of Attalos in the ancient agora and Panathenaic Stadium--to be leased to companies for private functions and now, prime minister Antonis Samaras okayed the sale of state assets last week. Among the properties are refugee tenement blocks built to put up Greeks fleeing the Asia Minor disaster in 1922 and culture ministry offices housed in neo-classical buildings in the Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis that were erected shortly after the establishment of the modern Greek state. Both are widely viewed as architectural gems.

The decision to sell off public assets invested with such historic significance has not only angered anti-austerity leftists. It has raised howls of protest from reform-minded conservatives with many wondering whether Greece is finally enacting what Germany's tabloid press has long taunted it to do: sell off its cultural heritage to pay off its monumental debt.

I think we can say with certainty that the last word on this has not yet been spoken. These desperate measures are hard to swallow for the government and people alike, and I am sure neither is happy with the situation. That said, Greece is struggling to keep its head above water and while selling or leasing these properties may hurt the ego and image of a proud country, it may also be its saving grace.

Image credit: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images