Gov­ern­ment in­sists it’s on track

Of­fi­cials play down ad­di­tional aus­ter­ity mea­sures as EU, IMF en­voys press for more cuts, con­sen­sus

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

As rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors em­pha­sized the need for the gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce more aus­ter­ity mea­sures and achieve some form of po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus with its ri­vals, Greek of­fi­cials yes­ter­day sought to play down the mag­ni­tude of the ad­di­tional cuts the debt-rid­den coun­try will be obliged to make.

Gov­ern­ment spokesman Gior­gos Pe­talo­tis re­futed press re­ports ac­cord­ing to which en­voys of the Euro­pean Union and In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund are seek­ing an ad­di­tional 6 bil­lion eu­ros in cuts this year and shifted the fo­cus to the gov­ern­ment’s midterm fis­cal pro­gram which is to be sub­mit­ted in Par­lia­ment next Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day. The pro­gram – which sets out fresh spend­ing cuts, tax in­creases and an am­bi­tious aus­ter­ity drive – has been one of the main fo­cuses of vis­it­ing in­spec­tors from the EU and IMF who are to de­cide on the dis­burse­ment of a fifth tranche of emer­gency fund­ing to Greece. Fi­nance Min­istry sources in­sisted yes­ter­day that an ad­di­tional 3 bil­lion eu­ros in aus­ter­ity mea­sures would be ad­e­quate for this year. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou is due in Brus­sels on Mon­day to present his EU coun­ter­parts with a draft of the new mea­sures.

At a press con­fer­ence in Brus­sels yes­ter­day, EU Eco­nomic and Mon­e­tary Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn stressed the need for new mea­sures but also em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of a po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus be­ing reached if these new mea­sures are to be ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the EU and IMF met in Athens with of­fi­cials of the main con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy party, but al­though the at­mos­phere was said to be less strained that in pre­vi­ous ex­changes, the meet­ing did not yield any­thing con­crete. ND of­fi­cials in­sisted on their own al­ter­na­tive pro­gram – dubbed Zappeio 2 – as an al­ter­na­tive to the gov­ern­ment’s midterm fis­cal pro­gram and claimed that strife in the ranks of rul­ing PASOK pre­cluded con­sen­sus.

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou, speak­ing from a meet­ing of cen­ter-left politi­cians in Oslo, in­di­cated that the gov­ern­ment’s big­gest prob­lem was not a lack of con­sen­sus but pres­sure from the mar­kets and the me­dia. “Even the IMF to­day is say­ing that our debt is sus­tain­able, we can man­age our debt with­out re­struc­tur­ing. But the mar­kets are pound­ing us in­ces­santly, the me­dia are pre­dict­ing the end of the world, and this is cre­at­ing a cul­ture of fear,” he said.

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