Finmin, main opposition leader in 'Guardian' interviews on fiscal measures, debt crisis

Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has pledged that Greece will make a "superhuman effort" to implement reforms that will turn its troubled economy around and finally stem a debt crisis whose ripple effects are sweeping through the Eurozone, with Spain and Italy looked set to be its next victims. Among others, he has promised to come down hard on Greece's endemic tax evasion problems, which are widely seen as the country's biggest problem in tackling a gargantuan public deficit and debt.

    "It's very important for us to act on our commitments to the EU and IMF. And, we will be true to our word," Venizelos said in an interview with the London-based newspaper "The Guardian" published on Friday.

    In this, the Greek minister promised to deliver on a fiscal consolidation programme that cuts state spending by 28 billion euro, further austerity measures and tax increases, as well as an ambitious and controversial privatisation programme to raise an additional 50 billion euro in state revenues.

    Interpreting the decision to give Greece a second bailout as a signal of a new resolve in Europe to tackle the spiralling debt crisis with "more decisiveness and courage," Venizelos appeared confident that the government's deficit-reducing programme would finally succeed.

    "I am necessarily optimistic. Psychology plays a huge role in economics. It is half of everything," he stressed.

    His optimism was not shared by main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, however, whose interview to 'The Guardian' was also published the same day.

    "The medicine Greece has been given, doesn't work," he said, stressing that a barrage of tax increases, wage cuts and pension drops demanded by Greece's EU and IMF creditors for the bailout loans were crippling Greece's economy and actually making the crisis worse.

    "The austerity measures aren't working; the sacrifices that are being made aren't paying off. The treatment is simply so strong that there is a risk we will kill the economy before we kill the deficit," he said, repeating his criticism of the government's severe austerity policies.

    "The only rational thing is to change the policy mix," he added. "As Einstein himself said, the definition of absurdity is to follow the same solution and expect different answers. The official projection was that in the first semester of 2011 the deficit would drop by 4% compared to the first semester of 2010. Instead, it went up by 27.5 %."

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