Premier strives for con­sen­sus on mea­sures

Lit­tle real back­ing from po­lit­i­cal ri­vals

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou met with his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals yes­ter­day in a bid to get some back­ing for his gov­ern­ment’s midterm eco­nomic pro­gram, which fore­sees more than 6 bil­lion eu­ros in tax in­creases and spend­ing cuts, but con­sen­sus proved more elu­sive than he, and the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors, had hoped.

Ex­pec­ta­tions had been high­est for Pa­pan­dreou’s first meet­ing, with An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, the head of the con­ser­va­tive main op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy. But Sa­ma­ras ex­pressed ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion to a new raft of aus­ter­ity mea­sures, call­ing in­stead for “a cre­ative shock through the re­duc­tion of taxes.” “I will not give my back­ing to a recipe which is so clearly wrong,” he said. Ac­cord­ing to sources, the two men dis­cussed the pro­posed tax re­forms in de­tail as well as the gov­ern­ment’s pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­gram, for which Sa­ma­ras re­port- edly ex­pressed only par­tial back­ing de­spite ear­lier sup­port for more de­ci­sive moves on sell-offs.

Sources told Kathimerini that Pa­pan­dreou made great ef­forts to con­vince Sa­ma­ras, and other party lead­ers sub­se­quently, of the im­por­tance of tak­ing mea­sures to re­duce Greece’s huge bud­get deficit. The premier re­port­edly said he re­mained open to any re­al­is­tic pro­pos­als for rais­ing 6 bil­lion eu­ros in rev­enue with­out rais­ing taxes. Pa­pan­dreou is said to have drawn up a list of mea­sures pro­posed by op­po­si­tion par­ties and adopted by the gov­ern­ment in its midterm pro­gram but it seems the ges­ture did not have the re­quired ef­fect.

The head of the Com­mu­nist Party, Aleka Pa­pariga, re­fused to meet the premier, say­ing their views were “di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed.” The leader of the Coali­tion of the Rad­i­cal Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, de­scribed the pro­posed re­forms as “a crime against the Greek peo­ple” and called for early elec­tions.

Only the leader of the far-right Pop­u­lar Ortho­dox Rally (LAOS), Gior­gos Karatzaferis, struck a vaguely pos­i­tive note. “No to in­def­i­nite con­sen­sus, yes to joint re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said, not­ing that all po­lit­i­cal par­ties should join in the ef­fort to save the Greek econ­omy.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Yian­nis Stournaras, di­rec­tor of the Foun­da­tion for Eco­nomic and In­dus­trial Re­search (IOBE), crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for de­lay­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of aus­ter­ity mea­sures. “If the mea­sures an­nounced this week had been im­ple­mented three or four months ago, the sit­u­a­tion would be very dif­fer­ent,” he said. He stressed that the gov­ern­ment’s agree­ment with its cred­i­tors, known as “the mem­o­ran­dum,” was the only way to se­cure the next tranche of emer­gency fund­ing next month and se­cure the coun­try’s exit from the cri­sis. “There are no al­ter­na­tives. If there was no mem­o­ran­dum, Greece would be four times worse off than Ar­gentina,” Stournaras said, re­fer­ring to the South Amer­i­can coun­try that de­faulted in 2002.

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou (r) and con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion leader An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras pre­pare for talks yes­ter­day. Sa­ma­ras ob­jected ve­he­mently to planned tax in­creases but said he sup­ported some pri­va­ti­za­tions.

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