Sun, Jul 08, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Greece wants to renegotiate policies, not targets: PM

Reuters, ATHENS

Greece will meet targets set by international lenders, but needs more time and wants to renegotiate policies that make its fiscal situation worse by preventing a return to economic growth, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Friday.

In his first policy speech since taking office, Samaras outlined his government’s priorities before a confidence vote today. Samaras said his aim was not to demand a change of the goals set in the 130 billion euro (US$159.55 billion) bailout deal keeping Greece afloat, but in the austerity policies imposed to meet them.

“We don’t want to change the targets,” Samaras told parliament. “What needs to change is that which is hampering us from attaining the targets. We want to fight the recession.”

The ruling coalition of Samaras’s center-right New Democracy party and two center-left groups that emerged after June 17 elections wants to change austerity measures that have hit the poor hardest and stifled an economy shrinking for a fifth year.

Samaras, who was laid low by eye surgery days after being named prime minister, conceded that Greece had missed targets included in its bailout program, but promised to do everything to keep the country in the euro.

He outlined an agenda of growth-boosting measures — ranging from speeding up privatizations to tax reform and battling bureaucracy to making the country investment-friendly.

However, he lashed out at eurozone partners who have openly said Greece risks leaving the euro if it fails to keep its pledges, saying it was difficult to move ahead with privatizations while foreign leaders publicly discuss such options.

“We can’t have foreign officials speaking publicly about Greece returning to the drachma,” he said. “They can’t undermine what we are trying to achieve ... This must stop.”

Greece, which is due to run out of cash in weeks without support from the troika of EU, IMF and European Central Bank lenders, has fallen behind agreed targets partly due to a two-month political limbo of repeat elections.

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