Greece?s three coalition leaders are unlikely to arrive at an agreement on Thursday about the entire package of cuts requested by the troika, as the cohesion of the three-party government appears to be facing the most severe strain since it came to office in June.
Greece remained 2-3 billion euros short on Wednesday of the 11.5-billion-euro total that its lenders have demanded. The scramble to find the remaining cuts has put the relationship between New Democracy and its coalition partners, PASOK and Democratic Left, under strain.
This was evident in a statement by PASOK spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata, who challenged Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to find the savings from the slashing of some 12 billion euros of waste in the public sector, as he had promised in the conservatives? pre-election campaign.
ND responded to the comment but sought to appear conciliatory. ?In these difficult times, everybody has to show responsibility and pay attention to every word,? the party said. In private, though, ND sources expressed anger with PASOK and its leader Evangelos Venizelos, accusing him of trying to disassociate himself from further unpopular cuts and passing the blame onto Samaras.
PASOK sources expressed frustration at the course of negotiations between the troika and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, arguing that some of the measures agreed were too onerous. Stournaras told aides he was perplexed by PASOK?s frustration as the Socialists had been kept informed about negotiations and had refused an offer to take part in the talks.
A third Democratic Left MP, Paris Moutsinas, expressed opposition to the measures on Wednesday, as party leader Fotis Kouvelis put off a decision to call a meeting of his lawmakers until the package is finalized. The cuts are now expected to be rubber-stamped on Sunday, when the coalition chiefs are due to meet again.
One of the sticking points in negotiations between the troika and the government has been civil servant numbers. The bailout requires there to be 150,000 fewer public servants in 2015 compared to 2009. Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis insisted on Wednesday that this target would be met without the coalition having to make any immediate sackings.
He said that 40,000 public servants are due to retire by the end of the year and another 35,000 would leave through voluntary retirement. Coupled with a strict hiring policy that would only allow one new bureaucrat to be hired for every five that leave, Manitakis said this would be enough to reduce civil servant numbers by some 200,000 by 2015.