PM wants reform by fall

Prime Minister George Papandreou is pressing his ministers to redouble their efforts over the summer so that the bulk of a new raft of austerity measures and reforms can be implemented by September, sources have told Kathimerini.

Papandreou held a series of meetings with several of his ministers on Tuesday to set out an action plan for the next two months and is to chair a cabinet meeting touching on the salient points at noon Wednesday.

One of the chief aims of the action plan is to make progress on an ambitious privatization program which aims to sell off 50 billion euros in state assets by 2015.

Speaking to Bloomberg on Wednesday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos dismissed criticism of the privatization plan as unrealistic, saying that authorities aim to bring in 1.7 billion euros in revenues from state asset sales by the end of September.

He insisted that he could keep to the timetable, citing his experience as culture minister in charge of preparations for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Another goal is to boost growth and employment, which have been hard hit by the debt crisis. The premier broached the issue of growing unemployment, which is particularly acute among Greeks, during meetings on Tuesday.

Sources in the premier?s office told Kathimerini that authorities hope to shift the focus away from taxes and public spending.

Meanwhile, representatives of the main conservative opposition, New Democracy, elaborated on the counterproposals for fiscal overhaul outlined by party leader Antonis Samaras in his ?Zappeio II? speech in mid-May.

Instead of the government?s plan to sack some 150,000 civil servants over the next few years, ND proposes that the staff be kept on at a reduced salary for a certain amount of time, depending on their years of service.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, Samaras insisted that the plan the government has drafted with its international creditors is destined to fail. ?In three months we?ll be asking for more money,? he said.

Samaras reiterated calls for a renegotiation of the terms of the midterm program with an emphasis on cutting corporate taxes and giving the sluggish economy a ?creative shock.?