NEWS

PM says he won’t balk at IMF loan decision

Prime Minister George Papandreou said yesterday that he would have no qualms about asking the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan should Greece need it, as the government indicated that cuts in private sector salaries could be on the way. As an IMF team arrived in Athens for talks on the rescue package that Greece has agreed upon with the Washington-based fund and the European Union, Papandreou made it clear he would not hesitate to draw some 45 billion euros in emergency loans if Greece continues to be hit by high borrowing costs. «If the country’s interest demands that we use the support mechanism, we will do it without hesitation,» said Papandreou, as he saw the spread on Greek bonds skyrocket. Sources said opinion is divided within the government. One camp believes Greece should ask for the loans immediately to stop international markets from toying with the country. The other wants the government to negotiate hard with the IMF and EU officials to ensure it cannot later be criticized for accepting harsh conditions without a fight. Papandreou criticized both New Democracy and the leftist opposition parties for, in his view, suggesting to people that Greece can consider other solutions. «Those that try to harm the bonds of truth and trust that the government has with the citizens and society as a whole should step aside,» he said. Meanwhile, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis indicated yesterday that cuts in private sector salaries from next year could be among the measures the IMF will demand. Petalotis said that the government had already taken more steps this year than the IMF would have required but that no measures had been agreed to for 2011. «I will not get involved in ruling out anything,» he said when questioned about private sector pay.