Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday offered reassurances that the state will honor its obligations in paying wages and pensions provided that citizens were consistent in paying their taxes and that the state machine will rise to the occasion. Speaking to reporters, presenting the results of a Eurogroup meeting on Monday, the Greek minister said: “Greece will meet all its obligations from bond maturity, wages, pensions, benefits and subsidies,” adding that “in order to have a state budget, citizens must pay their taxes. Imagine what could have happened if people did not pay their taxes”.
Venizelos said the country’s cash reserves were adequate until mid-November and stressed that no more measures were needed as long as we are consistent, organized and systematic. He noted that talks with the troika had covered the release of a sixth tranche of a loan to Greece, revising a medium-term program and other structural issues, such as labor market, opening up of closed professions, cutting spending in social policy, public administration and justice.
The Greek minister acknowledged there have been delays in promoting structural changes and referred to the “illusion of a higher living standard” for which the political world had the greatest responsibility.
Venizelos also referred to the paradox of Greek society, saying that the vast majority of citizens were against the current status of civil servants, but at the same time the people were reacting to any moves towards changes. “We must decide on what we want in this country. How we will go on,” he said, strongly criticizing the main opposition leader Antonis Samaras over his stance so far.
The Greek minister said that there was never a decision for a Eurogroup meeting for October 13 to decide on the release of the sixth tranche of a loan to Greece, but only views over the issue and noted that Monday’s marathon Eurogroup meeting agreed on three things: the banking system and depositors were fully guaranteed in Greece and Europe, Greece will always be a part of the Euro currency and there was not talk of a Greek default.
Venizelos said Finland will receive guarantees from Greece in the form of Greek state bonds worth 880 million euros to the benefit of Greek banks. Commenting on progress of a Greek bond swap program (PSI), Venizelos said the government has received the official responses by foreign finance ministries and was currently evaluating them. “The July 21st decision is of great importance for Greece. It’s the best we could have. There cannot be anything less than what the deal envisages,” he noted.
The Finance minister reiterated that under the 2012 draft budget plan, Greece will have a primary budget surplus of 3.2 billion euros in 2012.