NEWS

IMF chief backs extension for loans, growth

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, yesterday reiterated his support for the extension of the repayment period for Greece’s 110-billion-euro emergency loan package but stressed that the debt-ridden government still had much to do to get the beleaguered economy back on track. «I’m advocating that we lengthen the period of repayment,» Strauss-Kahn said during a joint press conference with Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion in Athens. The IMF chief noted however that Greece’s eurozone partners would need to support such a move. Later in the afternoon, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said that an agreement would «soon» be reached on extending the period of loan repayment from three years to seven-and-a-half. Strauss-Kahn said he had been «very impressed» with the efforts of the government and the Greek people in pushing through painful reforms but said «much more has to be done,» although he stressed that vulnerable social groups should be protected as much as possible and wealthier citizens obliged to make a greater contribution toward recovery. Responding to reporters’ questions, he ruled out the imminent introduction of any new austerity measures but highlighted the importance of «restoring growth.» Papandreou, for his part, noted that the IMF’s openness to extending the loan repayment period was «an indication of the growing acknowledgement of the sacrifices of the Greek people.» The IMF chief reiterated the importance of boosting growth during his speech before Parliament’s economic affairs committee later in the day while hundreds of protesters rallied outside. Growth will be crucial to Greece’s exit from the crisis and is the only way to secure «the future of your children,» Strauss-Kahn told the parliamentary session, which was boycotted by deputies from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Communist Party (KKE). Around 2,000 members of PAME, the KKE-affiliated labor union, protested in Syntagma Square, setting fire to life-size dolls depicting the leaders of the IMF, the government and labor unions. Strauss-Kahn appealed to political parties to set aside their differences and support difficult reforms, emphasizing that the future of the country is at stake.