PM looks to bright fu­ture

Premier says Greece will re­pay debt and grow; fi­nance min­is­ter calls for ur­gency

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou at­tempted to lift the gloom over Greece by in­sist­ing yes­ter­day that the coun­try will re­pay all its debt and will re­turn to growth by next year but dis­putes within his PASOK party about the po­ten­tial sack­ing of civil ser­vants con­tin­ued.

Speak­ing at a func­tion in Ar­gol­ida in the Pelo­pon­nese, Pa­pan­dreou ap­peared to re­ject spec­u­la­tion this week that Athens would soon re­struc­ture or re­pro­file its debt de­spite al­ready re­ceiv­ing the first four in­stall­ments of a 110-bil­lion-euro loan pack­age. “I want to say here that we will pay back these loans,” he said.

In­ter­est on Greece’s 10-year bonds rose to al­most 17 per­cent yes­ter­day on the back of the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the coun­try. Pa­pan­dreou in­sisted that his gov­ern­ment would lead Greece through its dif­fi­cul­ties. “We will do what­ever we have to do for Greece to stand on its own two feet,” he said. “We will have growth in 2012.”

The PASOK gov­ern­ment came un­der heavy pres­sure this week both from the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund to speed up its re­forms and to take more mea­sures aimed at im­prov­ing its pub­lic fi­nances. Vis­it­ing EU and IMF of­fi­cials cut short their reg­u­lar progress in­spec­tion on Thurs­day, say­ing that they will only re­turn when the gov­ern­ment has taken some of the mea­sures it has promised.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou re­flected this added ur­gency in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day when he warned MPs that Greece would have to move for­ward with sell­ing off state as­sets. “There is no time left,” he said. “It all has to hap­pen and it has to hap­pen now.”

Athens aims to raise an am­bi­tious 50 bil­lion eu­ros by 2015 and is un­der pres­sure to be­gin pri­va­ti­za­tions now. The EU and IMF have sug­gested set­ting up an in­de­pen­dent body, pos­si­bly un­der their over­sight, to man­age the sell-offs.

There are holdups on other fronts as well. The gov­ern­ment had said on Thurs­day that it would sack some civil ser­vants that fail to pass eval­u­a­tion tests dur­ing de­part­men­tal trans­fers but In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port Min­is­ter Dim­itris Rep­pas ques­tioned whether there would be any sav­ings from such a move. He sug­gested it was a to­ken ges­ture to please the EU and the IMF.

Most of the de­part­men­tal trans­fers will oc­cur in pub­lic en­ter­prises and pub­lic trans­port com­pa­nies, which are un­der Rep­pas’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

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