PM, Papaconstantinou begin fleshing out mid-term plan

Burdened by the continuing speculation about a Greek debt restructuring, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou will begin a series of meetings this week aimed at finalizing the government?s midterm fiscal plan and its privatization scheme.

Papandreou presented the rough outlines of the programs last week. The 2012-15 fiscal strategy aims to save the state 23 billion euros on top of another 3 billion euros in savings that have to be made this year. Greece also hopes to raise 50 billion euros from privatizations by 2015.

However, Papandreou and Papaconstantinou now have to hold talks with each minister in a bid to agree on where the cuts will be made and where revenues might come from. A number of ministers have expressed doubts about the government?s policy, so it will be an opportunity for the prime minister to iron out any differences. He aims to complete the process by May 15 so that the legislation is voted through Parliament by early June. So, Papandreou will also be aiming to ensure that his Cabinet appears united over these key bills before trying to convince skeptical PASOK deputies to vote for them.

Regional Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis expressed doubts on Monday about the privatization program, arguing that some state assets should not be sold off. ?In my view, some things cannot be privatized, such as water for instance, because it has to do with public health issues as well,? he said.

However, on Monday, most ministers and PASOK MPs reserved their criticism for former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said in an interview on Sunday that Greece should restructure its debt. ?This sidetracks us from the real issue and work we have ahead of us,? said Chrysochoidis.

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