Government bracing for more measures

A new raft of austerity measures are to be unveiled in the next few days, possibly as early as Sunday, sources said yesterday, as the government ponders how to make the announcement while minimizing any damage to its popularity. Following inspections by officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it emerged that the government will need to save almost 5 billion euros more than previously thought in order to meet its target of cutting the public deficit by 4 percent of gross domestic product this year. Sources said that it has not yet been decided who will announce the measures. The first set of cutbacks were revealed in a public address by Prime Minister George Papandreou but this announcement could be left to Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who came under fire from veteran PASOK MP Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday for failing to submit a bill to Parliament so the first set of measures could be enacted. «Are you going to bring us a draft law so it can be voted through in April but start bringing results by the fall?» asked Kaklamanis in Parliament. There is a possibility that the new measures will be announced on Sunday, a day before European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn visits Athens. Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras yesterday declared himself against the idea of Greece turning to the IMF for financial assistance, saying it would be «an extremely dangerous and anti-European solution.» Samaras was speaking after holding talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, where the two discussed Greece’s economic difficulties. «I have asked Mr Barroso for immediate support for Greece,» said Samaras. «Mistakes were made and they should not happen again. But now there must be European solidarity for the whole of the eurozone.» Barroso urged the Greek government to take all the necessary measures to reduce its debt and deficit and said that the European Union will support Greece. He did not go into details about what form this support might take.

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