NEWS

PM asks Cabinet to focus

As experts from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Athens to advise the government on how to curb a spiraling budget deficit, Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday asked his ministers to focus on implementing austerity measures and pushing through much-needed reforms, noting that constant speculation about the course of Greece’s economy was harmful. «We should abandon the easy pastime of focusing on rumors, which has dominated in recent months, and instead concentrate constantly and intensely on the problems of this country that need correcting, from institutional changes to a shift in mentality,» Papandreou told a Cabinet meeting yesterday. After the session, several ministers condemned renewed speculation in recent days, by both the media and financial markets. In a clear dig at a foreign press report earlier this week that quoted an unnamed government official as saying that Greece was considering renegotiating a rescue package hammered out with eurozone ministers last week, Minister of State Haris Paboukis called on journalists to name their sources to avoid such misunderstandings. Alternate Defense Minister Panos Beglitis advised all government officials to be careful with any statements they make as «anything said can be used at the expense of the collective effort being made for the country to overcome the crisis.» In Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy struck a similar note. «It is particularly harmful to Greek taxpayers that all manner of rumors are being started,» he said, rebuffing reports that Greece had tried to change the terms of a safety net brokered by eurozone leaders to offer loans in a deal backed by the IMF. «The Greek government has in no way asked to revisit the agreement struck a fortnight ago,» Van Rompuy said. In Athens meanwhile, IMF officials launched talks with Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou on the government’s efforts to cut public spending and push through structural reforms. According to ministry sources, the officials, who will be here for two weeks, examined a draft law aimed at curbing widespread tax evasion. No new measures were proposed as the officials are here in an advisory capacity, ministry officials said.