NEWS

Papandreou urges renewed focus from ministers

Prime Minister George Papandreou gathered some of his ministers for a pep talk on Monday ahead of a visit this week by officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – collectively known as the troika – in the hope that the government will convince its lenders that it is doing all it can to tackle Greece?s fiscal problems.

Papandreou met with five key ministers and government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis with the aim of ensuring that his Cabinet presents a united front during the troika?s visit and that it is focused on achieving the goals it has set out in its midterm economic plan. Sources said that Papandreou was very keen that the government should convince both the troika officials and the rest of the world that it is committed to achieving its goals.

Athens has already set out a blueprint for further public spending cuts and revenue-raising measures, which are designed to save 26 billion euros by 2015, and for a privatization scheme that is projected to bring in up to 50 billion euros over the next four years.

These plans will be scrutinized by troika officials this week, before top-level representatives from the EC, ECB and IMF arrive in Athens next week to decide whether Greece should receive the fifth, 12-billion-euro installment of its 110-billion-euro emergency loan package.

Papandreou also wants the government to ensure stability going into June, when Parliament will have to vote on the measures. A number of PASOK MPs have complained and the government may face a fight to win their support. However, sources said that Papandreou told his ministers yesterday that he was confident PASOK lawmakers would back the reforms. Nevertheless, he said he would not agree to calls from some parliamentarians for the measures to be approved by a qualified majority of 180 votes out of 300 rather than just a simple majority.

The premier?s optimism appeared a little misplaced on Monday if the comments of high-profile PASOK MP and author Mimis Androulakis are anything to go by. ?The state has to be reduced by 20 percent, not these Mickey Mouse measures the government has adopted,? he said. ?There are no plans, everything is up in the air.?

The deputy went on to blame the lack of coordination on Papandreou?s advisers rather than on key ministers. ?The makeup of this government is not allowing it to meet the challenges,? he said.