Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras insisted on Friday the government would not impose any new taxes or wage cuts beyond those already agreed in Greece’s fiscal consolidation program, as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought to give his coalition new impetus.
“This is the last time that our citizens will have to carry such a burden,” Stournaras told Parliament. “The Greek government will not take other measures that have to do with wage cuts, pension cuts and tax hikes. From now on, the program focuses on changes that bring about the modernization of the state.”
Stournaras was involved in a brisk exchange with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras after the latter accused the government of failing to capitalize on the International Monetary Fund’s error in calculating the impact that the Greek austerity measures would have on the economy.
The finance minister hit back, saying Athens had raised the issue with the troika late last year and that he had asked Greece’s lenders this week to give a joint assessment on the matter, which prompted European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn to argue the Greek program had suffered from domestic political instability and implementation problems.
“Of course I believe that the multiplier issue is important and of course I believe that the mistake is not just ours,” Stournaras said in response to Tsipras’s questions. “Clearly, Mr Rehn is mistaken if he believes that the whole recession was a result of just Greece’s mistakes. However, I cannot follow the leap you make from the IMF using an incorrect parameter to having to cancel the whole program and abandon the memorandum.”
Samaras held a rare cabinet meeting on Friday to stress the importance of pushing through structural reforms and improving the absorption of EU structural funds. Former Hania Mayor Kyriakos Virvidakis was appointed deputy development minister to oversee the use of these funds.
Samaras indicated he will begin holding one-on-one meetings with his ministers next week. He will also meet coalition partners Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis on Monday.