Coalition leaders to wrestle with cuts

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partners are to meet again in the middle of this week in a bid to finalize a tough package of 11.5 billion euros in austerity measures ahead of the scheduled return to Athens on Friday of envoys representing Greece?s international creditors.

The talks are unlikely to take place before Wednesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras scheduled to visit Berlin first to present an outline of the package to his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaueble.

Apart from the package of cuts, Samaras and his coalition partners are expected to discuss the viability of the country?s debt burden as well as flagging efforts to crack down on rampant tax evasion.

In comments to Sunday?s To Vima, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said that securing the disbursement of a 31.5-billion-euro loan tranche remained Greece?s key aim though authorities would attempt to make the package of cuts as fair as possible. ?We want this painful process to be influenced by a logic of cost-benefit and effectiveness and for the burden of the measures to be divided as fairly as possible,? he said.

But Samaras’ two coalition partners ? PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis ? are said to have serious doubts about some of the proposed cuts including cuts to the so-called special salaries of certain categories of civil servants, the abolition of additional holiday payments for pensioners and the bottom level of pension cuts. Plans for cuts to the holiday payments of civil servants are also unpopular.

Employees of the police and other security forces ? who belong to the special salary category ? are planning protest action this week as are judicial employees. Tax office clerks have also threatened to strike over the planned cuts ? action that would undermine efforts to crack down on tax evasion and boost revenue.

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