New threat to bailout as Greek right rejects more austerity

ATHENS Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:47pm EST

Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos shakes hands with outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos mansion in Athens, November 11, 2011. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos shakes hands with outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou at the Maximos mansion in Athens, November 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

Related Video

Related Topics

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's conservatives vowed on Monday to reject any new austerity measures in return for the aid that is keeping Athens from bankruptcy, signaling a new coalition government may not enjoy the kind of cross-party support its lenders demand.

New technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said Greece had no choice but to remain inside the euro zone, telling lawmakers reforms were the only way to mitigate painful austerity measures which had deepened the recession.

Euro zone leaders are demanding the conservative New Democracy and its two coalition partners -- the Socialists and the right-wing LAOS party -- sign pledges that they will do what is necessary to make a new, 130 billion euro ($177 billion) rescue loan package work.

If they do not, Greece's international lenders have warned they will withhold an 8 billion euro aid tranche Athens needs to avoid running out of cash next month.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he would not sign any pledge for new belt-tightening.

He has said his party would support all the measures Greece has passed so far to meet the terms of its aid deal, but his support for the three-day old government has been lukewarm. The LAOS party has also objected to any new wage or pension cuts.

"I agree with the goals to cut government spending ... to reduce debt, to erase the deficit, to make structural changes. I do not agree with whatever stunts growth," he told party MPs.

Crucially, he said he would not sign a pledge of support for conditions on the new bailout agreement demanded by EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn. Those terms have not yet been specified but may require new measures.

"I don't sign such statements," Samaras said, adding that his word should be sufficient.

His stance suggested a continuation of wrangling between New Democracy and the Socialists of fallen prime minister George Papandreou that last week pushed Greece to the brink and prompted EU peers to consider Greece's exit from the euro.

Opening a parliamentary debate that will culminate in a confidence vote on Wednesday, incoming premier Papademos urged the parties to commit to implementing the bailout's terms as agreed by euro zone leaders at a meeting last month.

"Our European partners and the international organizations that support us have made clear that further funding of Greece will continue only with the implementation of the terms... and the economic policies associated with them," Papademos told lawmakers.

"For this, the commitment of the government, and of the leaders of the parties that support it, is required."

PUBLIC PROTESTS

Papademos, a former vice president at the European Central Bank, must convince Greece's aid sponsors that Athens is able to take further pain in return for the new bailout, which will also wipe out debt held by the private sector amounting to almost a third of its total 360 billion euro debt load.

Inspectors from the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the ECB, known as the "troika", were due to meet the new administration after Wednesday's confidence ballot but uncertainty surfaced over whether they would actually come.

Tens of thousands of people angry at more than a year of austerity measures are expected to rally on Thursday, the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that helped bring down a 1967-1974 military junta.

The march could be the biggest in months of protests and would complicate discussions with the troika by shutting down Athens, particularly as previous rallies have turned violent.

Greek public sector workers also vowed to walk off the job for three hours on Tuesday in protest against measures to cut jobs, salaries and pensions passed in October, while private sector union GSEE is considering nationwide strikes later in the month when the budget is to be voted on in parliament.

"They may come at the end of the week but nothing is fixed," a spokesman for the European Commission's mission in Greece said of the troika team, which only last Friday had been slated to arrive early in this week.

Without a positive report from the inspectors, the lenders may withhold the key aid tranche Athens needs by mid-December to pay off bond redemptions and avert bankruptcy.

MARKETS LOCKING UP

A similar scenario played out in Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi's technocrat replacement, former European Commissioner Mario Monti, worked to create a new administration and halt a collapse in market confidence in Rome.

But the appointments of both Papademos and Monti failed to quell fears of a possible Greek default or break up of the euro zone. Equity markets and the euro slid in global trading.

BlackRock, one of the world's largest asset managers, said debt restructuring in Greece, Portugal and Ireland should include losses of 75 percent to 80 percent for private bondholders -- above the 50 percent envisioned in Greece's rescue package -- to help stop a global meltdown.

"Governments are falling, bond yields are zig-zagging by whole percentage points and markets around the world are locking up: the euro zone turmoil risks turning into a global crisis," it said in a research note.

Greece made marginal progress in a drive to sell state assets to raise funds, earning 380 million euros in the sale of mobile phone frequencies. It was a fraction of the 50 billion pledged in privatizations through 2015, but was still a start.

If Athens continues to slip in its revenue and spending targets -- as it has repeatedly -- or the economy weakens, the troika would have to suggest further tough measures.

Sworn in on Friday, Papademos said reforms tied to Greece's bailout package had worsened a recession that is in its fourth year and hit unemployment, which rose to a euro era record 18.4 percent in August.

He said new reforms could help remedy this problem, but he stressed the coalition parties first had to commit to fulfilling their part of the bailout in writing.

"This request must not be seen as a demand made by faceless powers and organizations," he said.

"The requested pledge expresses the demand and the expectation of the peoples and the taxpayers who are backing us, because it's they who are assuming the risks and the obligations that will possibly arise if we fail to achieve fiscal restructuring."

(Writing by Ben Harding and Michael Winfrey; Editing by Jon Boyle and Kevin Liffey)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
Ralphooo wrote:
All this is troubling, but it is still so much better than the older method of reconciling such conflicting views: war.

Nov 14, 2011 6:48am EST  --  Report as abuse
Tngavitas wrote:
I think they are not willing to undermine confidence debate to the new goverment and so they will not speak of the further measures proposed by Troika, as A. Samaras is contrary to adopt new taxes and reductions in salaries. And obviously create additional problems for the November 17th celebrations.
Here are the new measures that should be taken by the new Greek government, with a brief comment with numbers after a quick calculation!
• Reduction of jobs in the public sector by 30% by 2015. At the same time the number of unemployed in the country reaches 1 million.
So! Now in the public sector there are about 692.000 employees, and up to 2015 should end up 207.600 on the street. Adding about 40,000 unemployed which aggravate the budget every year, the unemployed in Greece in 2015 will be 1.000.000 + 207.600 + (3 years x 40.000), about 1.350.000 people (obviously, the official rate of unemployment!).
• Reduce labor costs by 30% (repeals allowances, overtime and wage freezes).
So! Now the minimum wage, with 0-3 years of work, is 594€ net and 739 € mixed; in 2015 will be 416€ and 518€ respectively. 221€ off!
• Reduction of 30% of the cost of government (co-location of ministries and other public structures, free or retract all rents paid by the state, abolish university facolties of degree and diploma by 2015 etc..)
On this i have nothing to say! There are some things that must be made!
• Establish a new fiscal framework (removal of the tax exemption, tax reduction for companies and individuals, introduction of a single rate of VAT, introduction of objective criteria for professionals, etc.)
So! Now the tax limit, unless i’m mistaken, is 4.000€ annually. In the case of a newly hired worker, he now gets 12months x 739€ = 8.868€ plus 290€ as a Christmas and Easter gifts (you get only the contributions, since there was the cutting of 13th and 14th wages), total 9.158€ and must pay taxes for 5.158€. In 2015 its annual revenues will be 6.420€ and will be taxed on the full amount. Another drop in annual earnings of about 80-100€. If we add the VAT rate, then there is nothing to do but cry now!
• Sustainability of funds in connection with the new data unemployed workers-retirees (elimination of the contributions to those that retires until 2015, the union of the various insurance entities in a single insurance fund, retirement age gradually to 70, put on stand-by the possibility of early retirement until 2015, etc.)
I have no data on this, and i do not think i can get retired, so i didn’t bother to be informed!

Nov 14, 2011 8:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
they loved free european funds last 25 years… it is pay back time… lazy greeks need to work… vowwww… sad…

Nov 14, 2011 9:47am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.