Measures win qualified support

Although the government is bracing itself for more strikes and protests this week after announcing a set of austerity measures designed to knock the Greek economy back into shape, a new opinion poll indicates that some of the toughest steps proposed by Prime Minister George Papandreou are supported by a majority of the public. A Public Issue survey for Sunday’s Kathimerini suggests that seven in 10 Greeks agree with Papandreou’s intention to cut the supplementary pay of public servants, to freeze hirings in the civil service and to rule out any pay hikes for bureaucrats for the time being. PASOK is also likely to be encouraged by the fact that 60 percent of the 600 people questioned said that they think the Stability and Growth Program drawn up by the government and approved by the European Commission last week will have a positive outcome. The opinion poll clearly indicates that most Greeks are very concerned about the state of the economy. Eight in 10 say they are worried by Greece’s high level of public debt. Greece aims to borrow 53 billion euros this year to meet payments, even though its debt is more than 300 billion euros. With the public deficit soaring to 12.7 percent of gross domestic product as well, perhaps it is no surprise that 38 percent of respondents think that it is likely Greece will soon go bankrupt and that 52 percent believe the country will not be able to meet its financial commitments without some outside help. Although some of the government’s measures to cut back on public spending appear to meet with public approval, other proposals put forward by Papandreou during a public address last week are not so popular. Five in 10 Greeks disagree with plans to impose new taxes, six in 10 are against the idea of increasing the retirement age and seven in 10 oppose the move to increase the tax on fuel. This level of opposition to the government’s measures is likely to be reflected by two major strikes in the coming days. The main civil servants’ union ADEDY has called a strike for Wednesday, while the country’s biggest labor grouping, GSEE, has planned a 24-hour strike on February 24.

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