NEWS

PM says Greece will meet targets

Prime Minister George Papandreou said yesterday that Greece will have met its targets for curbing its huge debt burden by the end of the year, despite a shortfall in tax collection revenues, as officials of the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund arrived in Athens to check his government’s progress in pushing through reforms. Speaking at a joint conference by the IMF and the International Labor Organization in Oslo, Papandreou said the reforms introduced by his government since it came to power would have taken most administrations years to achieve. «In 11 months, we did a decade’s worth of work,» he said. Papandreou added that his administration had great hopes for its crackdown on tax evasion, even though it has fallen short of its target in revenue collection so far. «If Greece stamps out tax evasion, it will not need any new loans and will emerge much more quickly from the current crisis,» he said. However the Greek premier also acknowledged the existence of spreading public discontent in Greece, though he seemed to suggest that this depression was the cause rather than the result of the current recession. «The problem with the current crisis is not the welfare state but a general sense of pessimism which must be addressed,» Papandreou said. The IMF’s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was also at the conference, the main focus of which was the sharp rise in unemployment sparked by the global financial crisis. Strauss-Kahn said that public anger and discontent, in Greece and in other countries with debt problems, was understandable but should not derail austerity drives. «It’s true to say that the people being hit by the crisis and by the measures that the governments have to take… are not directly responsible for that mess,» he said. «But you need to fix the problem,» he added. Back in Athens, the Finance Ministry received officials from the EC, IMF and European Central Bank who are to conduct a fresh audit of Greek finances ahead of the scheduled disbursement of 9 billion euros in December, the third installment of a loan package.