Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Greek govt readies budget

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ATHENS: Greece’s national unity government will submit a 2012 austerity budget to parliament on Friday, its first task in meeting the terms of an international bailout to avoid bankruptcy, but a rift widened between the coalition’s main parties.

Technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos must obtain the endorsement of the rival parties that they will do what it takes to meet the terms of the aid deal and persuade Greece’s lenders to release emergency funds it needs to avoid default in mid-December, plus more longer-term financing later.

As part of that process, inspectors from the ”troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank will start arriving in Athens on Friday for talks on next month’s 8 billion euro loan tranche.

But tensions have risen between coalition partners, the Socialists of fallen prime minister George Papandreou and the conservative New Democracy, as the latter has given only tepid support for reforms and has begun jockeying for position ahead of a snap election tentatively slated for Feb. 19.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has refused to sign a commitment to do whatever is needed to meet the terms of the 130 billion euro bailout agreed last month, defying a crucial demand by the EU and IMF for Athens’ next aid tranche.

He said on Thursday he needed to win a parliamentary majority in the Feb. 19 vote to reverse the austerity measures he disagrees with, angering the Socialists.

”As far as this government is concerned, Mr Samaras is saying whatever suits him,” Deputy Justice Minister George Petalotis, a senior Socialist (PASOK) party member, told state NET TV. ”All he has to say is that this is a transitional government, not a coalition government.”

Samaras has said he will back all austerity measures already passed but no new ones. He is publicly committed to unity government but, with elections down the road, has effectively tried to distance himself while still being seen to be taking part for the sake of keeping Greece’s creditors on side.

The PASOK-New Democracy dispute has eroded support for the two main parties, which are also joined in the new government by the far-right LAOS party.

But a poll showed 68 percent of voters like Papademos, who took power after an attempt by Papandreou to call a referendum on reforms stunned euro zone leaders, raised doubts over Greece’s future in the euro currency and led to his resignation.

The ALCO pollster survey showed support for New Democracy had slipped to 21.2 per cent, from 22.5 per cent before the creation of the unity government.

The Socialists fell to 11.8 per cent, from 15. The data included voters who were undecided, would abstain or cast blank or invalid ballots, who together totalled 28.9 per cent. (UNI)

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