NEWS

Measures divide PASOK

Prime Minister George Papandreou and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday began the tough task of talking round PASOK MPs who are opposed to the austerity measures announced by the government over the last few days, as the prospect of the steps being rejected by Parliament becomes a strong possibility.

The House had been due to vote Thursday on the emergency property tax, just one of several measures unveiled in recent days, but sensing a very negative mood among Socialist deputies, the government put off the ballot until Tuesday.

Papandreou immediately invited MPs to his office to discuss their grievances and the deputies were also addressed later by Venizelos, Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas and Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis. Sources said that at least five or six PASOK deputies said they were not prepared to support the real estate tax. Were they to carry through their threat not to vote for it, the bill would sink as PASOK only has 154 of the 300 seats in Parliament, down from 160 when the party was elected to power two years ago.

Papandreou and Venizelos warned the deputies of the consequences of Greece not passing the latest austerity measures and therefore not qualifying for its next loan installment for the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, which is 8 billion euros.

?There is no other way,? Papandreou reportedly told PASOK lawmakers. ?The other path leads to bankruptcy, which will have major consequences for every household.

?We know it will be difficult but now is time for the most decisive battle of all.?

Venizelos suggested that despite a shrinking economy and rising unemployment, things would get worse if Greece defaulted. ?Unfortunately, this is not the crisis,? he said. ?This is a great effort that we are making to protect ourselves and avoid the crisis. Because the crisis will be like in Argentina in 2000. In other words, the total destruction of the economy, institutions, social fabric and of the country?s production base.?

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde is reported to have described comparisons between Greece and Argentina as ?unfortunate.?

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