NEWS

Coalition partners meet to finalize cuts

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will meet on Monday with the other leaders of the country’s coalition government to finalize 11,5 billion euros of spending cuts for the next two years required to receive the funds pledged under Greece?s two rescue packages totaling 240 billion euros.

Samaras is scheduled to hold talks with PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis at 6 p.m.

Coalition leaders have reportedly agreed on most of the austerity measures demanded by the so-called troika of foreign lenders and are now considering pension and wage cuts to find the final 1.5 billion euros of savings still needed.

Venizelos and Kouvelis were set to meet earlier in the day after voicing objections over further cuts to pensions and salaries. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis were also meeting on Monday to discuss alternative cuts of equal value.

Where to cut

Reports on Sunday said the three politicians have agreed that the measures should not include a further cut to civil servants? salaries, thereby ending the 13th and 14th monthly payments, nor the imposition of a 1,500-euro per capita ceiling on healthcare coverage. Instead, they would raise from 5 to 15 euros the cost of a visit to a public hospital for treatment.

One of the areas where the three leaders have yet to agree is on the rise in the retirement age from 65 to 67. This would save about 1 billion euros over the next two years. Venizelos and Kouvelis suggested trying to find alternative measures of equal value.

The leaders also have to decide where to set the limit on how much retirees who have basic and auxiliary pensions can receive per month. It is likely that the ceiling will be placed between 2,300 and 2,500 euros.

There is also a proposal to reduce any pensions above 1,400 euros by 10 percent but Venizelos wants the reduction to be only on the amount that exceeds this level, rather than on the total retirement pay.

Among the measures that look certain to be included in the latest cost-cutting package is a 22.7 percent reduction to the lump sum civil servants receive when they retire. Private sector workers who draw their pensions from state-backed funds could also be in line for a cut.

Also, public hospitals will be instructed to increase their use of generic drugs to 66 percent of the total medicines they use by 2014.

The government sees a quick agreement on the fiscal measures as the first step to rebuilding trust with its lenders.

?The road ahead is long and demands patience and persistence so we can make up for lost time,? Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told Sunday?s Kathimerini.

Troika visit

Reports Sunday said troika representatives may extend their visit to Greece until the government has completed work on a two-year, 11.5 billion-euro budget plan.

Inspectors were originally due to leave at the end of July and return at the end of August to complete a review on progress of the government?s budget cuts for this year and plans for 2013 and 2014.