Finance Minister outlines goals, barriers

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday distanced himself from his predecessor, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, reportedy telling PASOK MPs that he disagreed with the balance of tax increases and spending cuts in the government?s austerity plan and claiming that certain amendments proposed by Papaconstantinou had not been approved by eurozone counterparts.

?I do not agree with the balance between revenue-raising measures and spending cuts in the midterm program but now there is no scope for change,? Venizelos was quoted as telling MPs.

The minister added that he had believed that the country?s foreign creditors had been informed about the proposed changes, including the lowering of a tax-free ceiling on property tax.

?I discovered that the Eurogroup knew nothing about this,? the minister was quoted as saying, referring to the grouping of 17 eurozone finance ministers.

Venizelos reportedly added that the time line proposed by Papaconstantinou for the privatizations had been unrealistic. He also heralded a reform of the Greek tax system in the fall, suggesting that two earlier attempts at reform had failed.

Venizelos said an implementation law, to be submitted in Parliament next week along with the midterm fiscal program, sets out the framework for the government?s privatization program.

Each planned sell-off has its own corresponding article in the bill, MPs were told. It is hoped that this approach will help overcome objections by certain PASOK MPs such as Alexandros Athanasiadis, who opposes the privatization of the Public Power Corporation (PPC).

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