NEWS

Government unclear on public sector sackings

As the International Monetary Fund?s top official in Athens warned on Wednesday that Greece?s deficit reduction program was at risk of running ?off track? without further structural reforms, the government, embroiled in an argument about whether political consensus is needed for reforms, suggested it might not sack civil servants as part of its package of measures.

The IMF?s chief of mission in Athens, Poul Thomsen, warned at a conference that Greece has to ?reinvigorate? its structural reforms if it is to meet its targets.

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, at the same Economist conference, said that Greece would adopt extra measures this year to slash another 6 billion euros from public spending. But he was less clear on whether the government will meet one of the demands put forward by the IMF and the European Union, which is to drastically reduce the amount of people working in the public sector.

Earlier in the week, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis had suggested that thousands of civil servants could lose their jobs as part of the departmental transfers that are taking place, but Papaconstantinou seemed to muddy the waters by saying that bureaucrats could be fired if a public body is shut down or merged.

The government?s position seemed even less clear when Ragousis told Parliament there would be no public sector sackings because savings had to be made by not renewing short-term contracts. Ragousis said this policy led to a reduction of 50,000 employees in the civil service.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who spoke to Skai TV, indicated that public servants who are not on permanent deals would have to go through an evaluation process run by the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP). Anyone deemed unqualified would be denied a position, said Pangalos.

The deputy prime minister was also critical of comments by EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, who called for political consensus over the reforms in Greece. ?His comments suggest that he is trying to attach political terms to the administrative relationship between the EU and Greece but this is not correct and makes things worse,? said Pangalos. ?It is only natural that if political terms are added, we will tell him to get his hands off.?