NEWS

Midterm program to come under scrutiny

As Prime Minister George Papandreou prepares for a critical week during which he must push an unpopular raft of fresh austerity measures through Parliament, sources have told Kathimerini that the Greek state only has enough cash to prevent default until mid-July, making it imperative that Greece convinces its foreign creditors to approve the scheduled release next month of a fifth tranche of emergency funding.

Greece?s eurozone partners, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said the release of the 12-billion-euro aid package depends on the approval of the government?s midterm fiscal program – a raft of tax hikes, cuts to public sector spending and an ambitious privatization drive.

In comments published in the Ethnos newspaper on Sunday, Papandreou said the program outlined ?serious, structural changes? and ?guarantees our exit from the crisis.?

He is on Monday to discuss the program with the Cabinet before meeting with his political rivals on Tuesday ahead of the scheduled submission of the draft reforms in Parliament where ruling PASOK has a six-seat majority.

Talks are to continue on Wednesday with envoys from the EU and IMF and it is expected that Papandreou will make a televised statement to the public before the bill goes to Parliament.

It is also likely that Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou will make a statement regarding the privatization program following calls by Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker for the creation of an independent body to oversee the process.

Greece?s creditors are pressing Papandreou to secure political consensus for the reforms to ease their approval and implementation. But this will be tough.

Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga has refused to meet with the premier. Meanwhile, the head of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, reiterated over the weekend his opposition to the draft reforms ?as a wrong and deadlocked policy.?