26 April, 2010
WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
Negotiations on the framework of a rescue package for Greece are likely to be concluded by early May, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said here on Sunday.
He was speaking during a press conference held at the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after his meeting with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Papaconstantinou stressed that the framework will be a three-year programme for the stabilisation of the Greek economy based on the strictest terms, which will be implemented.
He noted that the cuts already made by the Greek government have restricted the public deficit by 40 percent in the first three months of this year and that the government was proceeding with other measures and reforms. Among these he listed a new tax system already passed into law and planned privatisations and mergers of state enterprises, along with what he called pending major reforms to ballooning Greece's social insurance and pension system.
The minister called on markets to take the important measures the Greek government has already taken into consideration, as well as those that were being drawn up and would be put into effect in the near future.
"I understand that markets continue to want to be convinced but all the things we are doing are a very strong statement," he added.
Papaconstantinou categorically ruled out any possibility that Greece might exit the euro-area, saying that the country will remain within the common European currency and pointing to the 30 billion euros in European financial support that will be implemented as part of a three-year programme.
He also ruled out the prospect of debt restructuring for the country's mammoth public debt, saying this had not been discussed and was not a part of negotiations underway.
All the decisive measures taken by the Greek government seek to gain the trust of markets, the minister noted in response to other questions. He ventured a prediction that the start of an economic recovery for Greece may come in 2011, after the recession of the current year, when the Greek economy will be more competitive and returned to positive growth rates.
Papaconstantinou stressed that Greece's case was different that of other countries that had resorted to the IMF, since this now concerned a common support mechanism designed to protect the integrity of the euro. He emphasised the European contribution to the mechanism, pointing out that two-thirds of the loan will be given by Europe, while adding that Greece was the one that was taking the necessary measures "and no one else can do that for us".
Among these measures he listed a reduction of public-sector spending by 10 percent, although he noted that wages are not the only aspect of competitiveness. Additionally, he used as an example the opening of so-called closed professions, which will also contribute to a better and more efficient functioning of the economy.
During the same press conference, Papaconstantinou expressed his confidence that the German government absolutely supports the eurozone economic support mechanism for Greece, when asked to comment on the Berlin government's recent statements.
Along these lines, he said markets will also appreciate efforts to "clean up" Greece's economic data and statistics.
Moreover, the Greek minister, who has been jettisoned into the international financial spotlight over recent weeks due to the Greek debt crisis, warned that "whoever is betting on Greece's bankruptcy will lose their money."
Finally, he expressed satisfaction with the course of negotiations with the IMF and called a recent statement of support by US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner "very positive".
The Greek finance minister, after earlier meetings with his counterparts from Brazil, the United States and Russia, is next scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the IMF Spring Meeting.
* International Monetary Fund: Statement by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Meeting with Greece Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou (25.4.2010)
Source: Athens News Agency