New Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras on Thursday admitted that the country’s recovery plan was ”off-track” in some areas and that ”difficult years” lay ahead for the crisis-hit eurozone member.
”The program is in fact off-track in certain areas,” Stournaras told reporters as the conservative-led coalition government began talks with EU-IMF creditors on revising the terms of Greece’s second bailout.
”Difficult years lie ahead, I see light at the end of the tunnel but patience is required,” he added.
Stournaras, who officially assumed his duties earlier on Thursday, said he had been warned by auditors to expect a grilling at a meeting with eurozone finance ministers next week.
”I was told to expect a difficult day on Monday at the Eurogroup,” the minister said.
Greece’s creditors still want to see progress on the reforms agreed in return for its bailout.
Crisis-hit Athens is now drawing funds from a 130-billion-euro ($164 billion) lifeline but the government wants to renegotiate the agreement to avoid further job losses and put more emphasis on growth rather than austerity.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told the auditor mission that his administration was ”determined to proceed with greater efficiency on fiscal adjustment and speed up structural reforms,” his office said.
In the talks with the so-called ’troika,’ the new administration will point to worsening economic data to argue for an easing in salary and pension cuts.
Under the current terms of its bailout, Greece must approve additional cuts worth 11.5 billion euros by 2013 and reduce the state payroll by 15,000 people in 2012.
The new government wants to soften the blow, mindful of rising anger in Greece after over two years of austerity failed to restore the economy to health.
Stournaras, 55, chaired the ministry’s council of economic advisors when Greece was preparing to join the euro over a decade ago. [AFP] - Ekathimerini.com