Cabinet stands by recovery plan

Prime Minister George Papandreou got the unity he was looking for as the Cabinet met yesterday to approve the government’s economic recovery plan, but despite its ambitious targets an opinion poll published yesterday indicated that three in four Greeks are dispirited about the country’s future. Papandreou convened a meeting of his ministers for them to approve the Stability and Growth Program. The government plans to cut Greece’s budget deficit to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2012 from 12.7 percent last year. «We will achieve fiscal consolidation within three years; we will do everything it takes for this,» said Papandreou. «We can do it; this target is feasible.» The plan is due to be submitted to the European Union today. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said the deficit would be cut by 4 percentage points this year, to 8.7 percent of GDP. It would fall by a further 3 percentage points to 5.6 percent in 2011. But this scenario is dependent on the Greek economy starting to grow again. Papaconstantinou said Greece’s economy would expand in 2011, after falling into its first recession in 16 years in 2009, and grow by 1.9 percent in 2012 and 2.5 percent in 2013. Despite doubts about whether PASOK can achieve the economic targets that it is setting, Papandreou was keen that his Cabinet should unite behind the recovery plan, thereby avoiding the bickering that has dogged the Socialist party in recent weeks. There was also support for Papaconstantinou, who has become a target of abuse for some PASOK deputies. «People know deep down that this government is working hard and cooperating well,» said Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who backed the finance minister publicly. «The plan has been prepared with the decisive involvement of all the ministries and, of course, will be implemented with the help of teamwork,» said Papaconstantinou. However, a survey conducted by Public Issue for Kathimerini indicated that the electorate is less confident about the government’s ability to rescue Greece from the dire economic straits that it finds itself in. Almost six in 10 said they believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and 74 percent said that they feel insecure about their future prospects. Only four in 10 said they have confidence in the PASOK government being able to tackle Greece’s problems, although only 8 percent think New Democracy could do better.

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