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As troika meets labor and health ministers, Venizelos says burden can be eased

Troika officials met with representatives of the Labor and Health ministries on Thursday as Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos emerged from a meeting with Premier Antonis Samaras and insisted that the government intends to keep to its pledge to relax its austerity policies and not request a third bailout.

“We have a comprehensive and specific plan that we have discussed publicly with citizens and we will move forward based on this,” Venizelos told reporters after his 3.5-hour talks with Samaras. The PASOK leader said that he was “not worried” about possible sticking points during the troika’s assessment of the Greek adjustment program.

On Thursday, speaking at the Economist conference in Athens, Venizelos discussed the aim of reducing the tax burden on Greeks and not having to implement “another round of austerity.” He also insisted that the coalition remains committed to its goal of not seeking further bailout loans from the eurozone.

Troika officials, meanwhile, asked Health Minister Makis Voridis to keep a close watch on the revenues and spending of main public healthcare provider EOPYY. Sources said Greece’s lenders are particularly concerned about the cost of medicines, private clinics and diagnostic centers.

The inspectors also drew attention to the fact that social security funds’ debts to EOPYY so far this year stand at more than 500 million euros.

The two sides also discussed the use of generic drugs. Greece has committed to raising the use of such medicines to about 60 percent of the total by the end of the year but at the moment it is at around 20 percent.

The representatives of the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank also met with Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis. One of the key issues discussed during their meeting was another round of mergers between pension funds. This issue is expected to be at the forefront of talks between Greece and its lenders in the fall, with Athens having to overhaul its pension system for a second time in four years.

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