Greeks promised new austerity measures will be last

Greece’s prime minister promised his austerity-weary countrymen on Thursday that new spending cuts planned for 2013-14 would be the last major austerity package, but insisted it was vital to remain in the euro.

ATHENS — Greece’s prime minister promised his austerity-weary countrymen on Thursday that new spending cuts planned for 2013-14 would be the last major austerity package, but insisted it was vital to remain in the euro.

Antonis Samaras, who is struggling to get his uneasy coalition partners’ full support for the C11.5 billion ($14.4 billion) in cutbacks, argued that economic reforms and privatizations would restore growth after four years of deep recession.

“This is the last such package of spending cuts,” Samaras told a meeting of his conservative party’s officials. “The Greek economy can take no more.”

Samaras’ promise will sound familiar to Greeks, as previous governments have offered — and broken — similar pledges during more than two and a half years of harsh austerity measures designed to curtail huge budget deficits.

“Many of these cutbacks are difficult, painful,” Samaras said.

“But they are also inevitable. For without them the country would return to zero credibility and effectively leave the euro. Which would … destroy the country.”

Athens has pledged to implement the spending cuts in 2013 and 2014 under its commitments to international creditors who are keeping Greece afloat with rescue loans. Otherwise, the next C31 billion bailout payment will be suspended, forcing the country to default on its mountain of debt while struggling to pay pensions and public sector salaries. Many analysts believe Greece would then have to leave the 17-member eurozone.

After weeks of deliberations with its two centre-left junior coalition partners, PASOK and the Democratic Left, Samaras’ conservative-led government says it is close to finalizing how exactly it will make the cuts.

The program will be discussed with debt inspectors who are due in Athens next week and will meet with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Sept. 9.

Before that, Stournaras, who is trying to fine-tune the list of cutbacks with officials from the two junior partners, will hold talks in Berlin with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Tuesday, the finance ministry said.

The two-month-old government has issued no official details on the C11.5-billion package, which is expected to rely heavily on further pension and public sector pay cuts.

A meeting of the three coalition party leaders on Wednesday produced conflicting statements on the measures. Stournaras said that the “basic scenario” has been settled, and “minor, technical” details remain to be thrashed out.

But Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis insisted that he strongly opposes across-the-board income cuts.

His party also disagrees with reductions in local authority funding and in farmers’ pensions, as well as with proposals to suspend thousands of civil servants — who are guaranteed jobs for life — on reduced pay ahead of retirement.

The party chiefs will meet again before next week’s visit by the debt inspectors from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, collectively known as the troika.

Once the troika signs off, the new cutbacks must be approved by Parliament, where the three coalition parties enjoy a strong majority, controlling 178 of the 300 seats.

The vote is expected to trigger protests, as labour unions and anti-austerity parties virulently oppose further austerity. Previous demonstrations descended into riots that saw extensive vandalism and destruction of property in central Athens.

Workers at Greece’s Hellenic Postbank went on strike Thursday, a day after Stournaras told Parliament that the bank is no longer viable. The country’s main GSEE union accused the government of trying to undermine the bank’s value with a view to selling it cheap to private investors.

Company shares tumbled nearly 30 per cent Thursday, before the stock exchange indefinitely suspended trading, after bank officials said they could not make a deadline to release company results for 2011.

Greece was due to sell its 34 per cent stake in Hellenic Postbank last year, under a badly delayed privatization program intended to raise C19 billion ($23.8 billion) by 2015.

Just Posted

Rural transit service rolled out

2A South Regional Transit will link Innisfail and Penhold with Red Deer

Some Red Deer waste collection schedules change due to holiday season

Tuesday collections will be moved for two weeks

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport’s prospects are looking up for 2019

Ultra-low-cost passenger service is on the horizon

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Most Read