PM pre­pares for next big vote

Fi­nance min­is­ter in tough talks with cred­i­tors af­ter vi­a­bil­ity of 3.8 bln eu­ros’ worth of pro­posed mea­sures queried

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Buoyed by a vote of con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment early yes­ter­day that saw all 155 So­cial­ist MPs rally be­hind the gov­ern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou said his ad­min­is­tra­tion has what it takes to save the debt-rid­den coun­try but that much more must be done as a cru­cial vote on new aus­ter­ity mea­sures looms.

Ad­dress­ing his new Cabi­net, Pa­pan­dreou de­scribed the con­fi­dence vote, which passed with 155 votes to 143 and two ab­sten­tions, as a “reaf­fir­ma­tion of our man­date to con­tinue with a dif­fi­cult na­tional ef­fort.” He called on his min­is­ters to con­tinue “a tough battle on the do­mes­tic front to put our house in or­der and at the Euro­pean Union level to se­cure fund­ing for our coun­try and make our debt man­age­able.”

Pa­pan­dreou, who trav­els to Brus­sels to­day for a Euro­pean Union sum­mit where Greece’s debt cri­sis will be high on the agenda, yes­ter­day charged Fi­nance Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venize­los with han­dling talks with the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors on changes to the gov­ern­ment’s midterm fis­cal pro­gram which fore­sees fresh tax hikes and pub­lic spend­ing cuts.

Late last night, sources said that of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing Greece’s cred­i­tors – the Euro­pean Union, Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund – had ex­pressed doubts about the vi­a­bil­ity of mea­sures de­signed to save 3.8 bil­lion eu­ros out of the to­tal 6.4-bil­lion-euro tar­get for this year. The cred­i­tors re­port­edly pro­posed the cre­ation of more mea­sures to cover this gap. They are also ex­pected to pro­pose the ad­di­tion of pro­vi­sions that Venize­los’s pre­de­ces­sor, Ge­orge Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, had with­drawn fol­low­ing protests by some MPs. These in­clude re­duc­ing the tax-free thresh­old for an­nual in­come, which is cur­rently 12,000 eu­ros; in­tro­duc­ing a levy on prop­erty tax – to be calcu- lated based on size and charged through util­ity bills; and in­creas­ing the tax on heat­ing oil.

The talks be­tween Venize­los and top of­fi­cials of the EU, ECB and IMF are to start to­day ahead of Tues­day’s vote on the midterm pro­gram. The cred­i­tors have said the pro­gram must be ap­proved be­fore the re­lease of a 12-bil­lion-euro tranche of res­cue fund­ing.

The midterm pro­gram, op­posed by all other par­ties, has been slammed by some PASOK MPs, though only one, Alexan­dros Athanasiadis, has said he will vote against it. This would re­duce the gov­ern­ment’s ma­jor­ity to four seats.

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