Deadline for action on deficit

European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday officially gave Greece a four-month deadline in which to draw up and implement a series of belt-tightening measures to correct the country’s excess deficit. Greece will have to reduce its public deficit from last year’s 3.2 percent of GDP to under the 3 percent ceiling foreseen by the Stability Pact by the end of 2005. This will involve trimming some 1.5 billion euros off the state spending list over the next two years. Yesterday, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said the goverment would unveil deficit-cutting measures in November, and accused the previous, PASOK administration of having drawn up a totally unrealistic budget for 2004. In a tongue-lashing in May, the European Commission complained that «Greece’s public finances show large imbalances, inconsistent with a prudent fiscal policy,» and accused Athens of having provided unsatisfactory data for 2003. On Monday, the council of EU finance ministers voiced fears that the 2003 deficit might be revised upward in September.