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Government considers passing cuts in stages to ease impact

The coalition government is examining the possibility of passing the spending cuts being demanded by the troika in several phases in order to ease the political impact of the unpopular measures, sources have indicated.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras presented Prime Minister Antonis Samaras with the savings during a meeting on Monday. The government is poised to exceed the 11.5 billion euros of cuts demanded by the troika.

It has planned for 13.5 billion euros of measures over the next two years as the Finance Ministry has estimated that the 11.5 billion euros in cuts would lead to a shortfall of 2 billion euros in tax revenues and social security contributions.

“It is clear that we will keep our commitments,” said Stournaras after the meeting.

He refused to be drawn on the issue of the labor reserve for civil servants, with reports suggesting that 30,000 to 40,000 public sector employees would be removed from their jobs and would receive some 70 percent of their salaries for one to three years.

“It will be in a different form from the one implemented in the past,” said Stournaras. A labor reserve scheme was employed last year to little effect and both coalition partners PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left’s Fotis Kouvelis have expressed doubts about the process.

Sources said that the new version of the labor pool scheme would be ready by the end of August.

Sources said the Labor Ministry put forward cuts worth 5.2 billion euros to pensions and welfare payments in order to be sure that it would secure savings of 4.6 billion.

The reductions to pensions will affect those retirees who earn 800 euros or more per month but in a bid to save more money, the minimum number of years of work needed in order to qualify for the minimum pensions of 485 euros could also be increased. Currently 15 years’ worth of work is needed. This may rise to 20 years.

Samaras will be hoping to present the measures as a sign of his government’s decisiveness to stick to the troika program when he meets Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker tomorrow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and French President Francois Hollande on Saturday.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday August 21, 2012 (11:21)  
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