Leaders balk at savings

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras?s coalition partners — PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis — attempted on Monday to argue that Greece should not agree to all of the 11.5 billion euros in spending cuts demanded by the troika but the premier seems adamant that this is the government?s only option.

The three coalition leaders were due to meet on Monday to finalize the savings but a brief meeting ended with no agreement, with Venizelos and Kouvelis suggesting that a different strategy should be followed. ?Society cannot endure any further burdens,? said Kouvelis.

?We must curb the recession and take measures that boost growth as well as achieve fiscal adjustment,? said Venizelos.

Sources told Kathimerini that the two leaders had proposed to Samaras that the cuts be split into two parts, with only 6 billion euros of savings for 2013 now along with a series of structural reforms. Venizelos and Kouvelis proposed that the remaining 5.5 billion euros in cuts be finalized at a later date, depending on the state of the economy. The PASOK leader also raised the issue of a second restructuring of Greece?s debt.

The two leaders are concerned about the stability of the government should all the measures, including pension and salary cuts, be announced now. Samaras, however, insists that all the savings should be agreed now and that the government should only push for better terms over the course of the next few months. It is expected that the cuts could be finalized in a new leaders? meeting on Monday.

Samaras appears to have the backing of Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who indicated that party chiefs saw eye-to-eye on the need to take measures and to seek more time for fiscal adjustment. ?We all agree that we must find 11.5 bln euros in savings. We all agree that we need two more years and that the road ahead is an uphill and tough one,? the minister told reporters. ?The point is that our choices should not annul our ability to negotiate and remain in the eurozone,? Stournaras added.

Earlier in the day, in a meeting with PASOK and Democratic Left officials, the minister was more outspoken about the risks the country faces. ?Either we take the necessary measures or we return to the drachma within two months,? Stournaras said, according to sources.

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