US Media on Greece
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08 December, 2010
After talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou in Athens on Tuesday, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn urged Greek society and Greek political parties to support the government's efforts to navigate Greece's economic crisis. He particularly emphasised the need for political support from opposition parties, saying that the country's rescue was at stake.
"We are here to help, we do not go somewhere uninvited," Strauss-Kahn said, noting that he was aware of how the IMF was viewed but urging Greeks not to "fight the doctor that sometimes gives us medicines we don't like".
The prime minister, in his statements, said the effort being made by the Greek people was a feat and that this was being increasingly recognised worldwide. As a sign of this recognition, he pointed to the start of a process to extend the repayment schedule for the 110 billion euros loaned to Greece via the European crisis support mechanism, thanking the IMF chief for his position on this issue.
Strauss-Kahn indicated that the IMF was ready to extend the repayment and termed the issue "technical", adding that there was increasing understanding within the EU of the need for such an extension to take place simultaneously.
Asked whether the extension of the repayment would also mean additional austerity measures, Strauss-Kahn let it be understood that no additional measures were currently envisioned:
"I did say that the worst was not over but neither did I say that the worst was coming. There is nothing new in the programme, which is continuing as planned," he said.
The IMF director also declared himself impressed with the efforts of ordinary Greek people and the fact that Greek voters had shown they understood the necessity for the government's "brave" measures via elections, adding that this "does not happen often".
Predicting that Greece will return to growth in 2012, he noted that controlling public finances had been a priority until now but the focus should now shift to structural reforms, especially for the problematic public sector.
"When a country has problems of this kind it must handle them in the right way," Strauss-Kahn said and urged continued efforts, in which the wealthy shouldered their share of the burden rather than allowing ordinary people to suffer.
Papandreou stressed that the government's efforts were not directed only at fiscal management but at placing the country upon a different path toward growth, one that made use of its comparative advantages in an environment of fair taxation, less red tape, better services, conditions that encouraged enterprise and initiatives to increase jobs.
The prime minister said that the government would place most emphasis in 2011 on education and noted that prior to his meeting with the IMF chief, he had met Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou.
According to Papandreou, Greece's huge public-sector deficits were simply symptoms of deeper problems in Greek society, so that the changes being made by the government did not only concern reducing public spending but also establishing values, rules and mechanisms for the proper management of public spending, for control, accountability and transparency and to establish a different culture.
In 2011 the greatest weight will be on structural changes so that in 2012 the country will return to growth, Papandreou stressed.
"As we meet our targets, so will the conditions and terms improve for a permanent exit from the crisis in a viable way," he added.
The IMF director said that the problems were not confined to Greece, noting that the situation in the EU and euro-zone was "very serious" and stressed the need for an overall solution and not a separate solution for each country. He emphasised that the problem was not debt, as such, but slow growth and noted that Europe needed growth levels of 3-4 percent, comparable to those of the United States.President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who arrived in Athens earlier in the day.
Papandreou agreed on the need for a solution for all of Europe, saying that the crisis had to be "converted into an opportunity to tackle the system of economic overnance."
Strauss-Kahn asked that the vulnerable social strata not be affected, to the degree feasible, and that the weight be placed instead on collecting taxes from the more robust social groups.
He noted that the economic crisis is chiefly a European crisis, but added that Greece was the most vulnerable EU member country, and that was the reason it was the first to be hit by it.
Papoulias, in turn, thanked the IMF chief for his "understanding towards Greece's big problem".
He stressed that the Greek people are "waging a huge battle, with many difficulties, particularly for the vulnerable social strata".
On Germany's stance, he said "it has dug its heels in", and described the crisis as a European, and not only a Greek, crisis.Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met in his office in Parliament on Tuesday evening with visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to whom he outlined his position on the memorandum that Greece has signed with the troika of EU/ECB/IMF.
Samaras explained why the memorandum, apart from socially unfair, is also economically ineffective. He said that it does not lead to results and insisted on the need for a change in course with recovery and growth because if these do not exist greater deadlocks will result which neither society nor the economy can stand.
The ND leader further said that these deadlocks cannot be prevented by the extension of the repayment of the loan alone. ND agrees with the extension provided that it includes the entire amount of the loan of 110 bilion euros and not contains new burdensome measures.
The meeting with Strauss-Kahn was attended by ND vice president Stavros Dimas, the relevant economy sector chiefs Christos Staikouras and Mitarakis, ND spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos, and the director of his office Constantine Arvanitopoulos.International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, briefing the Greek Parliament's Economy Committee on Tuesday, considered the possibility of the extension of the loan's repayment time without new terms as being a foregone conclusion, but in parallel stressed the need for structural reforms with salary and pension cuts since, as he said, there is no other way for productivity to be balanced.
Strauss-Kahn pointed out that although achieving the target of fiscal restructuring is diffucult, however there are many sectors in which expenditure cutbacks can take place and appeared convinced that if the measures proposed by the IMF are implemented without deviations then the programme will be crowned with success, calling on all the parties to support it.
He claimed that Greece had no other choice since, as he said, "in May when it resorted to the IMF it was on the cliff's edge" and stressed that the success of the programme is linked "with the degree of justice that it will inspire in the people and commenting on the protests against the measures noted that "if I were a Greek I might also be in the streets."
He further said that "all must realise the situation and each to assume his own share of responsibility," adding that "you must show that in this national effort all are participating."
The IMF managing director assessed that "the amount of the loan for 110 billion will be enough for Greece if things develop as we think" and that "growth is expected to be restored at the end of 2011."
He made a characteristic reply to the remark by Economic Committee president Vasso Papandreou (ruling PASOK MP) on the high rates of unemployment among young people and on their leaving abroad.
"The possibility of youth leaving is an issue that is developing in many countries. It is important that you create incentives for them because when they return to their country they will have obtained experience. I understand their desperation that they might decide to leave abroad. Well, when normalcy is restored and there is growth they will return," Strauss-Kahn.
The importance of the possibility he had to meet and exchange views with the Greek government and the parties, is stressed by IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a relevant announcement by the Fund, following the conclusion of his visit to Greece where, as it is mentioned, "he held discussions on the recent economic developments."
"I am pleased to have the opportunity of visiting Athens and exchanging views with the Greek Authorities, with members of Parliament and with the opposition. I congratulate the efforts that the Greek government and the Greek people are making for the implementation of their ambitious reformist programme which aims at the modernisation of the economy, the strengthening of competitiveness, as well as the restoration of growth and the labour market. The IMF together with our European partners, are fully devoted to supporting the efforts of Greece, including the provision of aid for it to be secured that the economic programme is socially balanced and fair, and that it provides protection for the more vulnerable members of society," Strauss-Kahn said at the end of his visit, adding that "in the six months of the programme's implementation, a great deal has been achieved, but much still remains that must be done."
Source: Athens News Agency