Wrangling over reform terms

As concerns mount about the ability of the debt-ridden government to execute an ambitious budget for 2011, sources revealed over the weekend that the country’s international creditors have clashed with a top Cabinet minister over proposed changes to work contracts and the streamlining of loss-making public companies. Meanwhile, in an interview with Kathimerini, the leader of the main opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, ruled out cooperating with ruling PASOK, noting that as long as Greece remains bound by the terms of an international rescue package, there are no prospects for collaboration. «There is no remit for cooperation with those who have accepted the impasse of the memorandum,» Samaras told Kathimerini, referring to the agreement between Greece and the so-called troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – for the release of 110 billion euros in loans in exchange for a raft of austerity measures. According to sources at the Finance Ministry, members of the troika are at loggerheads with Labor Minister Louka Katseli over possible changes to labor contracts and job cuts at public utilities and other state-backed companies. The same sources told Kathimerini that Prime Minister George Papandreou telephoned Katseli and asked her to stick to the terms of the agreement thrashed out with the troika. However, sources close to Katseli denied the existence of a rift. «The stance of the premier and his Cabinet members is one and the same,» one source said. But some economic analysts criticized Katseli after she made comments in To Vima newspaper suggesting that the troika had prescribed «the wrong medicine» for Greece’s economic ills. Panayiotis Gennimatas, honorary vice president of the European Investment Bank, told Skai that he believed Katseli’s statements had made her position untenable.