IMF urges labor reforms

Greece must make drastic reforms to its labor market and social security system, International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials told Greek industry leaders yesterday. During their routine annual visit to Greece, IMF representatives met with the board of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) and with leaders of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), an umbrella organization for all employees except civil servants. The IMF officials have been gathering data on the Greek economy during their visit and are said to have emphasized to both the industrialists and union leaders that Greece urgently needs to review its social security system and labor market. The IMF inspectors are thought to have told the SEV board that Greece has the most inflexible labor market of any eurozone country. The industrialists explained that they brought the matter up during a meeting with PM Costas Karamanlis on Friday, to discuss the content of his keynote economic speech due on Saturday, but were rebuffed. The IMF representatives explained that the state of Greece’s economy demanded that SEV keep pressuring the government to act on the matter. However, it seems the question of regional development is uppermost in Karamanlis’s mind before his speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair, rather than labor market reforms. He is expected to announce several major works outside Athens, particularly in northern Greece, such as the completion of the Egnatia Highway and the vertical arteries linking it to central European roads, the laying of an oil pipe between the Bulgarian port of Burgas and Alexandroupolis and the building of a metro system in Thessaloniki. The aim of these and other projects is to regenerate neglected parts of the country, including rural villages.

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