NEWS

Papandreou strives for consensus on measures

Prime Minister George Papandreou met with his political rivals on Tuesday in a bid to get some backing for his government?s midterm economic program, which foresees more than 6 billion euros in tax increases and spending cuts, but consensus proved more elusive than he, and the country?s international creditors, had hoped.

Expectations had been highest for Papandreou?s first meeting, with Antonis Samaras, the head of the conservative main opposition New Democracy. But Samaras expressed vehement opposition to a new raft of austerity measures, calling instead for ?a creative shock through the reduction of taxes.?

?I will not give my backing to a recipe which is so clearly wrong,? he said.

According to sources, the two men discussed the proposed tax reforms in detail as well as the government?s privatization program, for which Samaras reportedly expressed only partial backing despite earlier support for more decisive moves on sell-offs.

Sources told Kathimerini that Papandreou made great efforts to convince Samaras, and other party leaders subsequently, of the importance of taking measures to reduce Greece?s huge budget deficit. The premier reportedly said he remained open to any realistic proposals for raising 6 billion euros in revenue without raising taxes.

Papandreou is said to have drawn up a list of measures proposed by opposition parties and adopted by the government in its midterm program but it seems the gesture did not have the required effect.

The head of the Communist Party, Aleka Papariga, refused to meet the premier, saying their views were ?diametrically opposed.?

The leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, described the proposed reforms as ?a crime against the Greek people? and called for early elections.

Only the leader of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, struck a vaguely positive note. ?No to indefinite consensus, yes to joint responsibility,? he said, noting that all political parties should join in the effort to save the Greek economy.

In a related development, Yiannis Stournaras, director of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), criticized the government for delaying the implementation of austerity measures.

?If the measures announced this week had been implemented three or four months ago, the situation would be very different,? he said. He stressed that the government?s agreement with its creditors, known as ?the memorandum,? was the only way to secure the next tranche of emergency funding next month and secure the country?s exit from the crisis. ?There are no alternatives. If there was no memorandum, Greece would be four times worse off than Argentina,? Stournaras said, referring to the South American country that defaulted in 2002.