Friday, June 14, 2024
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Greek govt offers no austerity relief

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ATHENS: Greece’s new cabinet may last a month or two longer than planned, a senior government official said on Saturday, but whatever happens Greeks should not expect any relief from the tough austerity measures they have endured for two years.

A national unity government, led by technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, took power on Friday with the task of tackling Athens’ huge debt load and meeting the terms of a 130 billion euro bailout agreed with rescue lenders last month.

Papademos replaces George Papandreou, who unearthed years of fiscal cheating at the start of the global economic crisis and then fought a losing battle to push through unpopular austerity measures against public and political opposition.

The new crisis cabinet merges main players in Papandreou’s socialist administration — foremost among them returning Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos — with members of its main rival party, the conservative opposition New Democracy.

It also includes the LAOS party, which won one portfolio in the first showing for a far-right party in government since a military junta was ousted almost four decades ago.

Bitter rivals, the parties have said they will do what is needed for Greece to fulfill commitments it has agreed to with the European Union and International Monetary Fund ahead of an election initially slated for Feb. 19.

But Theodoros Pangalos, a returning deputy prime minister from the previous cabinet, said the government could stay in power longer than the initially envisioned 100 days.

”I don’t know if it will be 100 days. It could be 120 or 150. In any case it will last for the first quarter of the year,” Pangalos told state television NET on Saturday.

Greeks have largely welcomed the new government, saying the somber international policymaker Papademos is a safer pair of hands than those of politicians they say have put their own interests ahead of those of the country.

But Pangalos warned voters not to expect relief from the tough tax measures decided earlier this year to qualify for further bailout tranches.

In his first statement as prime minister, Papademos vowed to fulfill a deal forged last month with euro zone leaders that will release an 8 billion euro loan Athens needs to avoid running out of cash next month plus longer-term funding later.

”The government’s main task is to implement the decisions, the conclusions of the October 26th and 27th euro zone summit meeting, and secondly to put into force the economic policies which come together with these decisions,” he said. (UNI)

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