ECONOMY

More austerity on the way, says FinMin

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos appealed to Greeks? sense of pride on Tuesday at a press briefing following a weekend visit to Washington that included meetings with leading officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he suggested that more painful austerity measures are on the cards before Greece?s Parliament was set to vote on a bill for an emergency property levy on homeowners, and said that ?reinstating the country?s international credibility and reputation? was the top priority.

?Greece has been significantly weakened in terms of its negotiating power,? he told the press conference regarding the concerns expressed Greece?s creditors ? the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF, collectively known as the troika ? over Athens?s ability to speed up the implementation of a raft of austerity measures demanded by the troika for the disbursement of an 8-billion-euro bailout loan in October, but added that ?if Europe cannot save Greece, it cannot save itself.?

All the measures agreed with the troika on July 21 ? including the retrospective slashing of tax exemptions from January 2011, new cuts in pensions by an average of 4 percent and an additional 20 percent reduction in state salaries, as well as streamlining the public sector ? will be implemented in full, the finance minister vowed ahead of a visit by foreign inspectors representing the troika, who, according to sources, are expected to arrive in Athens on Wednesday.

?We will be examining additional elements? of the austerity program, Venizelos told the press conference, responding to a demand from the troika for a detailed implementation schedule of the reforms and written assurances from Athens that it will take steps to catch up with fiscal consolidation and meet targets outlined under its 110-billion-euro bailout deal, while he also suggested that further ?painful measures? will need to be taken if Greece is to meet its fiscal targets for 2013 and 2014.

?The measures we [the Greek government] have taken,? he admitted, ?have not generated the anticipated revenue, serving, instead, the immediate need for slashing spending.?

Venizelos denied recent scenarios of a Greek debt haircut by up to 50 percent and emphatically excluded the possibility of a Greek default, saying that the bankruptcy of any eurozone member would seriously ?undermine the credibility of the euro.?