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Coalition aims for surplus boost

The European Commission’s statistical arm, Eurostat is expected to confirm on Wednesday the size of Greece’s 2013 primary budget surplus, which the government hopes will further boost its argument that it made the right decision to stick with the fiscal adjustment program agreed with the eurozone and International Monetary Fund.

The confirmation of the surplus, which the government expects to top 1.5 billion euros, will also act as a trigger for talks between Greece and its lenders on further debt relief. This also is a key element to the government’s strategy in the run-up to May’s local and European Parliament elections. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos are certain to point to the promise of discussions about Greek public debt as further justification of their policy line.

The coalition hopes to use these developments, along with the first signs of growth expected later this year, as evidence that Greece is beginning to exit its crisis and to put the era of fiscal austerity and structural reforms imposed by its lenders behind it.

However, SYRIZA countered this argument yesterday. Citing a report in the leftist opposition party’s newspaper, Avgi, SYRIZA said that the public sector mobility scheme will continue after 2015. The scheme requires civil servants to be placed into a labor pool and then sacked if no new positions are found for them. The troika has demanded that 25,000 public sector workers go through the scheme by the end of this year.

“Not only is the country not coming out of the memorandum, it is entering further into it,” the leftists said.

SYRIZA claimed in its statement that the new memorandum of understanding between Greece and its lenders would lead to further job losses and wage cuts in the civil service. “The celebrations about the primary, pre-election surplus... cannot hide the future that Mr Samaras and Mrs [Angela] Merkel have in store for the Greek people,” the opposition party said.

SYRIZA is expected to name this week its final two candidates for the European elections on May 25 after comedian Lakis Lazopoulos turned down the opportunity to run with the leftists. In a letter to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, Lazopoulos said that he had “taken on so many commitments that it is impossible for me to put them aside and take up this challenge.”

ekathimerini.com , Monday April 21, 2014 (17:25)  
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