NEWS

Privatization row prompts tougher stance from troika

Greece looks set to reap the dissatisfaction of its lenders following the controversy over comments about its privatization program, which showed no signs of abating on Wednesday as Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou accused the EU-IMF team of ?exceeding its role.?

Source in Brussels told Kathimerini that the European Commission was unimpressed with the furor caused by the government?s reaction to comments last Friday from the troika representatives about Greece having to urgently embark on a privatization program to raise 50 billion euros.

?Greece should have already presented a comprehensive plan for how it will attract investment to reduce its debt but instead it appears that it expects all the solutions to be provided by its lenders, who it is blaming for problems it created itself,? said a Commission source.

It is expected that the officials from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank will from now on not give the government much leeway in meeting the targets it has been set as part of its 110-billion-euro emergency loan agreement. Sources said that the two sides have agreed that the troika will no longer give news conferences after they conclude their regular assessment of Greece?s progress.

The view that Greece should now focus on raising the money needed to pay off its debt rather then relying on outside help was echoed by PASOK MP Giorgos Floridis. ?It is about time we realized that we are the ones that own 350 billion euros, not the Germans, French or Swedes.?

However, Papconstantinou maintained his position that the troika representatives had overstepped the mark. ?If they had not made their statement in they way they made it, the government would have had time to inform, consult and explain,? he told Parliament. ?We could have explained what it means to set a target of raising 50 billion euros from state assets over five years and where our red lines would lie.?

The government has ruled out selling public land as a way of raising money and PASOK MP Ilias Mosialos, who is also the head of the Andreas Papandreou Institute of Strategic and Development Studies (ISTAME), said that this would not be a viable strategy anyway.

Mosialos said that research carried out by ISTAME suggested that as much as 45 percent of the land owned by the state had been appropriated by landgrabbers.