NEWS

PM sets scene for ‘painful’ measures

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday gave the clearest indication yet that his government is determined to push through the tough austerity measures necessary to resuscitate Greece's beleaguered economy during a flurry of interviews with the foreign press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at the Swiss ski resort of Davos. «Greece remains committed to making the sacrifices required to put its finances in order,» Papandreou was quoted as telling the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. The Greek premier added that his administration would focus on curbing wasteful spending and trimming the salaries of some public servants. In another interview with US television network CNBC, Papandreou admitted that the planned changes would be «painful» but were unavoidable if the country's dire fiscal situation is to be remedied and Greece is to «become a competitive economy.» In a round-table interview involving 24 representatives of major foreign newspapers and TV channels, Papandreou and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou sought to provide more details about measures outlined in the government's crisis plan, officially called the Stability and Growth Program. Papaconstantinou appeared upbeat. «As the implementation of the package begins, and as we get the green light from the [European] Commission, as we think we will get next week, spreads will tighten and confidence will return,» he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. But in Athens, the first real social impact of the government's austerity measures were evident. Around 2,000 firemen marched through the center, demanding payment for hours worked as overtime. Public sector employees on short-term contracts also took to the streets. The next scheduled strike action is on February 10 when public servants are to walk out. Other sectors are expected to join the action and a general strike has not been ruled out. Tax officials are due to strike on February 4 and 5, protesting planned cuts to salaries and benefits that they say will cut their incomes by up to 25 percent.

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