More austerity measures announced by Greek government

The Greek government late Wednesday announced another package of tough austerity measures after a marathon Cabinet meeting that, according to a written statement by government spokesman Elias Mossialos, "lead to achievement of the 2011 and 2012 fiscal targets and enable completion of the implementation of the support (EU-IMF bailout) programme for the Greek economy up to 2014".
After a Cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister George Papandreou in parliament, Mossialos announced in a written statement six quantified measures.
First, the tax-free ceiling is further reduced to 5,000 euros, which according to Mossialos is the eurozone average.
Second, he said the new civil service salary scale will be 'uniform, meritocratic, transparent and fair", at the same time "giving incentives for increasing the productivity and performance of public administration and its employees".
Third, pensions over 1,200 euros per month will be cut by 20 percent for the amount exceeding the 1,200 euro mark. Also, pensions of retirees under 55 years of age will be cut by 40 percent for amounts exceeding 1,000 euros until the retiree reaches 55 years of age.
Fourth, 30,000 employees in the core and wider public sector will be placed in "reserve labour" by the end of 2011 through what Mossialos called "meritocratic and transparent criteria under the monitoring of the ASEP (civil service hiring examinations board)" so that "the real redundant personnel may be pinpointed". Mossialos said this affects approximately 3 percent of the public sector and wider public sector employees.
Fifth, the Cabinet also took a series of decisions on advancing structural changes, and chiefly privatisations, the opening of 'closed-shop' professions and the job market, and the restructuring of agencies of the wider public sector, Mossialos' written statement said.
Sixth, the national taxation system that is to be voted in parliament by the end of October will "put a permanent end to a series of injustices and inequalities that have existed for decades, which undermine the country's social and developmental cohesion".
Mossialos' statement said that the discussions with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' will be completed following the return of the troika chiefs to Athens early next week.
"The country's strategic choice to once again become a fiscally independent and equal member country of the eurozone , reaching primary surpluses the speediest possible is an absolute given," the Mossialos statement said.
It added that the six itemised measures are choices that "send to our partners and to the markets the message that Greece wants and can fulfill its obligations, remaining always at the core of the euro and the European Union".

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