NEWS

PM responds to ‘attack’ by speculators

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday sought to reassure investors and markets that his government was doing everything possible to plug a gaping deficit and referred once again to an «attack by speculators» on the weaker economies of the eurozone, including Greece, Portugal and Spain. «I can understand the doubts that have been expressed but we will credibly apply this program,» Papandreou said on the sidelines of a conference in the Indian capital of New Delhi, referring to a crisis plan his administration has drafted to kick-start Greece’s reeling economy. The premier also took the opportunity to condemn market speculators for undermining Greece and other embattled regional economies. «The targeting of Spain and Portugal shows that Greece is not an isolated case. The problem is a European and international one and we must undertake coordinated action in a spirit of solidarity,» Papandreou said. But back in Athens there was widespread debate about the fairness of the austerity measures heralded by Papandreou, as tax and customs officers continued a strike and civil servants and labor union members prepared for walkouts over the next two weeks. There were even some voices of dissent within the party of ruling Socialist PASOK. One MP, Pantelis Economou, speaking during a radio interview yesterday, said the government’s reforms «upset the way economic policy is usually formulated» and compared the choices taken by Papandreou to «the policies followed over the past six years by the government of [Costas] Karamanlis… which drove us into this situation.» Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou fought off stronger criticism of PASOK’s austerity measures from left-wing opposition deputies in Parliament. The minister insisted that the government is able to get the Greek economy back on its feet without external support. «At the moment, our country has a huge deficit and debt, it is under attack by speculators, some are betting on it going bankrupt,» he said. «But if Greece presses for the issuance of a eurobond, it will send out the message that we can’t make it on our own… We can make it on our own. Greece can and will make it,» the minister added.