Finmin rules out 'horizontal measures' to rein in deficit

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Monday said the government would not take any further "horizontal" measures to rein in the deficit in 2011, such as those taken in 2010.

"There will, of course, be a uniform pay scale. In the uniform pay scale the injustices that exist in the current pay scale for civil servants will be lifted. Whether this will take place immediately or over a transitional period is something to be examined but it is clear that these injustices will be lifted," the minister underlined.

Speaking to NET state radio, the minister also ruled out another emergency levy and noted that a shortfall in revenue during 2011 had been covered in other ways, so that the deficit had actually been reduced by an additional 50 million euro above the original forecasts in the first two months of the year.

He announced that corrective measures to make up for the smaller revenue would target both spending and revenue increase and would not be sweeping horizontal reductions to pay and pensions, or general tax increases as in 2010.

According to Papaconstantinou, the greatest weight would now be given to encouraging growth through specific policies.

He also claimed that an economic recovery had already begun, since the recession was becoming ever shallower and there were hopeful messages from the export sector, while 2011 was expected to be a bumper year for tourism.

"In other words, 2011 will be the last year of recession for Greece. Secondly, we have the fiscal adjustment that is also absolutely necessary. At the end of 2011 we will have a deficit of 17 billion euro. This must fall to three billion and this implies political choices," he said.

Finally, the minister referred to the privatisation programme and the management of state real property, which he said would have a dual goal: promoting growth and bringing in revenues to pay down the debt.

During the same interview, Papaconstantinou once again ruled out the prospect that Greece will restructure its debt, noting that the cost of such a restructuring or 'haircut' of the Greek debt would be much greater than the benefit.

He also pointed out that the cost would not only concern Greece but also countries in the rest of Europe, so that it was not a viable option on a European level and one that would hit poor households hardest.

Papaconstantinou left open the possibility that Greece might not be able to return to borrowing on the markets in 2011, adding that it might then do so at the start of 2012.

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