PM eyeing emergency loans

As the government’s tax bill was voted into law yesterday, Prime Minister George Papandreou gave the clearest indication yet that Greece is edging closer to calling on the emergency loan scheme agreed to on Sunday by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Papandreou held a meeting with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to discuss Greece’s situation and, according to sources, said the government will continue to try to borrow on international markets, where it has been hampered by widening bond spreads but that it would turn to the EU-IMF scheme if interest rates do not drop. Papandreou emphasized that ND’s support would be vital if such a situation arises, prompting observers to believe that the prime minister may ask very soon for the 40-45 billion euros that will be put up by the eurozone members and the IMF. The government has not stated what would trigger its decision to turn to the emergency funding but sources suggested that it could make the move within the next two weeks. The development came as Parliament passed the government’s tax overhaul by 158 votes to 126. The law, which Papandreou described as «revolutionary» aims to crack down on tax evasion and offers taxpayers incentives for collecting receipts. It also brings to an end special tax dispensations enjoyed by some groups. Meanwhile, there was no comment from the government yesterday after a former healthcare executive in the UK was sentenced to jail for helping to pay more than 5 million euros in bribes in Greece to secure contracts for his company, DePuy Inc, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Robert John Dougall, 44, was jailed for 12 months after revealing that he helped arrange payments amounting to 23 percent of the sale price to bribe doctors and surgeons.

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