Greece will speed up reforms, won't ask for change to targets, says PM

Greece will speed up privatizations, the use of public land and the scrapping of state organizations but will not ask for a change to the targets in its bailout agreement, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told Parliament on Friday, as European Union officials said Athens would receive no further loans until it has caught up with the program.

Presenting his coalition government’s policy program, Samaras identified bureaucracy, recession, unemployment and lack of investment as key obstacles to Greece recovering from the crisis but said that the initial target must be to promote structural reforms “aggressively” rather than to ask the country’s lenders for changes to the bailout.

“We do not want to change the targets,” he said. “We have to change everything that is standing in the way of us achieving these targets.”

Samaras called for the privatization of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) but said the infrastructure would remain under state ownership. He also proposed the inclusion of the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies in the privatization program. Licenses will also be issued for the operation of regional ports and airports.

The prime minister said a special purpose vehicle would be formed to lease or sell public land in southern Athens, from Faliro to Sounio. Samaras said legal issues relating to this real estate would be cleared up and similar schemes launched in other parts of Greece.

Samaras pledged to shut down or merge dozens of public organizations, mostly within the next five months. He also said that the Development Ministry would take over sole responsibility for projects eligible for EU structural funding with the aim of securing the quick release of up to 12.5 billion euros from Brussels.

The New Democracy leader, however, said that the government would ask for measures in the bailout which it feels feeds the deep recession to be replaced by other costcutting steps. Samaras insisted he would oppose any measures that lead to more job losses in the public or private sector.

He also called on European politicians to stop speculating about whether Greece would leave the eurozone. “We cannot have the situation where we are trying to get privatizations going and foreign officials are speculating about a return to the drachma,” he said.

In Brussels, an EU official told journalists that a Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on Monday would not take a decision on the disbursement of Greece’s next loan tranche, which would only happen once “the program is back on track.” “It is not a tragedy that the program is off target,” the official told Kathimerini. “This has happened with other programs. We understand that there were elections but the lost ground must be made up.”

The debate on the government’s policy program begins on Saturday afternoon and will end with a confidence vote on Sunday night.


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