IMF review draws muted response from Greek coalition

There was a muted response on Thursday from Greece’s coalition parties to the International Monetary Fund’s admission of serious errors in the Greek bailout as the European Commission indicated that it did not concur with the assessment of the country’s program.

Speaking a few hours after the IMF published its thoughts on the bailout, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a fierce opponent of the policy mix in the first memorandum, said that the report highlighted the mistakes he had been critical of “from the start.” Samaras, who was on a trip to Finland, stressed however that Greece should not dwell on the implications of the IMF’s review.

“I do not look back. I am looking forward,” he said. “We must achieve and beat the targets in the program. Nothing should distract us from this.”

New Democracy’s coalition partners were also reserved in their comments on the IMF’s paper. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos suggested that the Fund’s findings backed up his reservations about the first program and underlined its role in fueling recession and unemployment. Democratic Left issued a statement calling for elements of the program that “are not producing results,” such as higher taxes, to be changed.

SYRIZA was more vociferous in its response, arguing that the IMF document justified the leftist party’s opposition to the terms of the bailout. “Greece was used as a guinea pig so the same rigid policies could be implemented in other EU countries,” said SYRIZA’s economic policy spokesman, Yiannis Milios. He warned that the IMF’s projection of a 4.6-billion-euro funding gap in 2014 would prompt the government to adopt more austerity measures.

Representatives of the other two parties in Greece’s so-called troika of international creditors – the European Commission and the European Central Bank – both rebuffed the IMF report’s claims. EC spokesman Simon O’Connor defended the Commission’s handling of the Greek debt crisis, telling reporters in Brussels, “We fundamentally disagree” with the claims in the report. He claimed that an earlier restructuring of the Greek debt would have led to “devastating consequences,” noting that the report “ignores the interconnected nature of the euro-area member states.”

Asked about the IMF’s report in Frankfurt, ECB President Mario Draghi said he had not read it but that any real shortcomings it has highlighted would be taken on board. He refused to take any blame, however, saying it was wrong to make judgments with the benefit of hindsight. “Often, mea culpas are a mistake of historical projection and tend to judge things that happened yesterday with today’s eyes,” he said. Both O’Connor and Draghi drew attention to the progress Greece has made since 2010 in terms of stabilizing its economy.