Greece’s political leaders rounded on International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde on Sunday following comments in an interview where she expressed more sympathy for children in Niger than those in Greece who were suffering from the crisis and suggested that Greeks were suffering payback for living well in previous years.
Lagarde received more than 10,000 negative comments on her Facebook page, mostly from irate Greeks after the interview with The Guardian was published on Saturday. She issued a new statement late on Saturday to qualify her comments and said she was “very sympathetic to the Greek people and the challenges they are facing.” She added that a comment regarding rife tax evasion in Greece was a reference especially to “the most privileged.”
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was unimpressed by Lagarde’s attempt to quell the controversy over her remarks and used the opportunity to chide rival parties. “The last thing that we are asking for in Greece is Mrs Lagarde’s sympathy,” he said. “Greek workers pay their taxes, which are unbearable. For tax evaders, she should speak to PASOK and New Democracy so they can explain why they have not touched big capital and have been chasing normal workers for the last two years.”
New Democracy said it was perplexed by Lagarde’s comments. “Although Mrs Lagarde recognized her mistake and retracted her statement, the average Greek must be wondering what she was trying to achieve with comments like this,” said party spokesman Yiannis Michelakis.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos welcomed the IMF chief’s clarification. “The tone of Mrs Lagarde’s comments was unacceptable. It was insulting,” he said. “There was a big reaction on the Internet and Mrs Lagarde was forced to retract what she said. I am glad about that because it shows that she is taking into account the reaction of a proud country and a proud people.”Ekathimerini.com