NEWS

Pace of reforms to pick up

The government is to speed up plans to submit to Parliament a series of bills that herald several structural reforms, sources close to Prime Minister George Papandreou said yesterday after foreign media reports that Greece would seek to renegotiate the rescue package agreed with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund caused fluctuations on stock and bond markets. Reports that Athens was seeking to change the agreement struck in Brussels two weeks ago so that the IMF would not be involved in providing Greece with loans, because some government ministers fear it would lead to the adoption of even tougher measures than the ones PASOK has already announced, sent the spread between German and Greek bonds to just over 400 basis points, its highest in more than 12 years. An unnamed Greek government official was quoted in the news reports, prompting Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou to publicly denounce the comments as coming from someone who was «not competent» in such matters. He added that the government was trying to ascertain which of its members made the anonymous comments. In a bid to counteract the negative effects that this development had, sources close to Papandreou made it known yesterday that the government wants to pass a raft of legislation by the middle of May, when the next inspection is due by the European Union to ascertain whether Athens is adhering to its fiscal targets, to convince both Brussels and international markets that it is serious about overhauling the economy. The new tax law is due to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow and legislation reforming the pension system will follow within 10 days. A development law and the Kallikratis plan for reshaping local government will be the next pieces of legislation to be submitted. Plans to liberalize closed professions will also be unveiled in May and Papaconstantinou said that the privatization of some state companies would be discussed at one of the next Cabinet meetings. He did not give anymore details.