With the pressure growing on the new government to take action toward putting its devastated economy back on track, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is on Monday start meeting with fellow cabinet members in a bid to finalize proposals for 11.6 billion euros in savings for the next two years that the country’s international creditors want to see before they will consider any concessions.
The talks are to culminate on Wednesday morning in a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his two coalition partners -- socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis -- where the measures will be rubber-stamped before being presented to officials representing the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika.
It is expected that the 11.6 billion euros in savings will come from cuts in three areas -- pensions, social benefits and the public sector, where several bodies are to be abolished or merged.
According to a study by the Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE), several billion euros could be saved by cutting the wages of top-ranking public servants and another 1 billion euros by setting a ceiling of 2,400 euros to pensions.
The troika has pressed the government to open closed professions, noting that several sectors remain “protected” from competition by Greek law.
Top troika officials, who are to return to Athens on July 24, have said that they can be flexible on the measures as long as they achieve the required revenue. Still, there is impatience with the lack of reform progress. Asked if it would be better if Greece left the euro, Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker told German news magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend, “the fact is that the Greek government has not implemented the program as agreed.” He added that it would cost more to give Greece an extension to fulfil deficit targets. “This raises two questions,” he said.“Firstly, are Europeans prepared to put up extra resources? And secondly, will the International Monetary Fund come on board?”
A new opinion poll conducted by MRB for Real News and published over the weekend showed that seven in 10 Greeks want the government to insist on a renegotiation of the terms of the country’s debt deal. Only 15.5 percent said the government should accept the existing terms.