Greek PM insists cuts will be made

George Papandreou

Greece’s prime minister insisted today he would see through newly announced austerity measures, despite failing to secure broad support from opposition parties.

George Papandreou renewed his commitment as international debt inspectors returned to Athens to continue a crucial review of Greece’s progress in meeting the terms of its €110bn bailout package from other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund.

They will decide whether the country receives the next instalment of rescue loans in June – and could indicate whether Greece will need extra help beyond the current rescue loans.

“We have achieved very difficult targets in a critical time, and this is what we must continue. We are entering a new phase of the programme with determination,” Mr Papandreou said.

The prime minister met the heads of the political parties yesterday seeking support for a mid-term package of measures which will run to 2015 – two years beyond his government’s mandate. But he failed to win consensus.

The new plan includes savings for this year, tax increases and pledges an immediate start to previously announced privatisation’s. It aims to narrow the country’s budget deficit from 10.5% of gross domestic product last year to 7.5% by the end of 2011.

Top EU officials have argued that Greece, which is struggling to meet the terms of the bailout extended last year and could need more help, needs opposition parties to back the debt-cutting plans to ensure they can be implemented smoothly.

But Antonis Samaras, the head of the main opposition conservative party, said that while he agreed with several elements, including the privatisations, the overall direction of the plan, and the hike in taxes in particular, was wrong.

Mr Papandreou insisted the government would move forward, and was open to suggestions from the other parties.

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