Lagarde regrets Greece comments, IMF says

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde has expressed regrets to her board for her comments about Greek suffering amid the country’s debt crisis.

Lagarde told Britain’s The Guardian last week she has more sympathy for poor African children than for Greeks suffering through economic problems and austerity measures. She also suggested that Greeks could make things better if more people paid their taxes.

“I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education,” she said in the interview IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said Thursday that Lagarde told her board this week that “She regrets that her remarks were misunderstood and caused offense.” He added that Lagarde and the IMF have “great respect for Greece and the people and the sacrifices that many are making to overcome the economic crisis.” Greeces economy is being kept afloat on international loans provided by the European Union and the IMF, along with a harsh austerity package of cuts and higher taxes that is deeply unpopular with the country’s electorate. The government that agreed to the loan and austerity package was voted out of office in May.

The new parties, who mainly campaigned on anti-austerity platforms — have not been able to form a government and new elections are scheduled for June 17. One of the most popular parties in Greece, the left-wing Syriza party, wants to abolish Greeces international bailout agreements, raising fears that Greece will leave the eurozone and destabilize world markets.

Lagardes comments were widely condemned in Greece and have become fodder in the election campaign. [AP] 

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