NEWS

PM to seek to rally troops on program

Prime Minister George Papandreou is on Monday to chair a crucial cabinet session aimed at getting all his ministers behind the government?s midterm program before it is submitted in Parliament later this week amid reports of growing rifts within the ruling Socialist party over the tax increases and severe cuts to public sector spending outlined in the program.

After today?s cabinet session, the premier and his ministers are to present the proposed measures before a session of the party?s political council in a bid to get the vast majority of MPs to back the program before its scheduled submission in Parliament on Wednesday.

Concerns about a backbench rebellion scuppering the government?s hopes to push the program through Parliament have grown since last Thursday when a group of 16 PASOK MPs sent Papandreou a letter demanding that the midterm program be debated extensively before being put to the vote, not rushed through Parliament.

Greece?s international creditors are pushing in the opposite direction; they want the program pushed through Parliament as soon as possible so that its implementation can begin and real progress can be made toward raising much-needed revenue and curbing the country?s huge budget deficit.

In an attempt to strike a positive tone ahead of what promises to be another difficult week, the government over the weekend uploaded onto its website a link featuring a video listing its achievements since October 2009 when Socialist PASOK returned to power.

?In 20 months we have achieved what has not been done in as many years,? the video said, noting that public spending had been slashed and radical reforms put into motion.

Meanwhile, in the wake of talks between Papandreou and Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday that paved the way for a second bailout for Greece, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the new package could end up costing more than 100 billion euros.

Another German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, claimed that the German Finance Ministry aims to propose the extension of maturities on Greek state bonds.

There was no confirmation of either report by the German ministry in Berlin.