NEWS

PM prepares to tough it out over new measures

A new raft of revenue-raising measures is being prepared by the government as Prime Minister George Papandreou prepares to endure two of the toughest months of his premiership.

As representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund arrived in Athens on Monday for their latest round of checks on how Greece is progressing with the targets it has been set, government sources let it be known that new measures will be unveiled soon.

These are likely to include a rise in road tax, the imposition of excise duties on non-alcoholic drinks and the transfer of some products from the 13 percent value-added tax bracket to 23 percent. In a bid to save money, the government will scrap more public organizations and will speed up the process of introducing an across-the-board wage structure in the civil service.

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said that there would not be anymore wage cuts in the public sector and that pensions would not be reduced either. He also ruled out the imposition of a one-off tax on wage earners.

The announcement of the measures is likely to trigger further discomfort within PASOK. Lawmakers from the ruling party have increasingly been voicing their concern over the past few weeks about the direction that the government?s economic policy is taking. Papandreou is likely to be concerned about the potentially volatile atmosphere in Parliament ahead of the government?s attempt to pass three key economic bills over the next two months.

First there is the midterm economic plan for the 2012-15 period, then the government will have to present its privatization program and lastly the national plan for growth.

PASOK MP Vassilis Exarchos summed up the mood in the Socialist party?s parliamentary group by saying that the deputies did not want to see the middle class burdened any further by extra measures.

Fellow lawmaker Panayiotis Kouroublis went as far as suggesting that the rules for the votes on these draft laws should be changed so that more than a simple majority is required for them to be passed by Parliament.

Papandreou met yesterday with international financier George Soros, who praised Greece?s efforts to get its economy back on track. Sources close to the prime minister stressed that Soros did not comment at all on the issue of debt restructuring.