Arab Today, arab today greek pm stresses urgency of austerity deal
Last Updated : GMT 02:18:28
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Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity deal

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Arab Today, arab today Greek PM stresses urgency of austerity deal

Athens - AFP

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday stressed the urgency of sealing an austerity pact with the nation\'s so-called troika of international creditors, who are deciding whether to unlock a vital new loan package. Speaking to the centre-left weekly newspaper To Vima, Samaras said his nation\'s financial system was desperate for the cash injection. \"The Greek economy awaits this money like the parched earth awaits the rain,\" he told To Vima, noting that a lack of credit was threatening even healthy businesses with closure. Senior representatives from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank -- Greece\'s \"troika\" of creditors -- returned to Athens on Sunday, with a meeting between them and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras slated for Monday. The trio had given Samaras\'s coalition government a week to finalise the austerity package worth 13.5 billion euros ($17.5 billion) in order to unlock 31.5 billion euros in frozen EU-IMF loans. The measures \"must be finalised and voted on within a few days ... there can be no delay,\" said Samaras, who has just completed his first 100 days heading an alliance between the socialists and the moderate left. The support funds, part of a Greek bailout worth 130 billion euros overall, had been suspended in May when reforms ground to a halt in a political stalemate as the country held double elections before a government could be formed. Samaras has been trying to overcome opposition from the socialist and moderate leftist parties allies in government, who have warned against imposing sweeping new cuts on a nation already slogging through a third year of austerity. They have urged the conservative PM to extract as many concessions as possible from the troika, chief among them a two-year extension to 2016 in order to ease out the fiscal overhaul. Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, one of the three coalition partners, said the extra time was important to reduce the impact of the measures. After weeks of abortive talks, Stournaras on Friday said the coalition had agreed on the main points of the austerity package and that the approval of the troika and of Greece\'s EU peers was now required. Samaras told To Vima he was optimistic the EU would approve the plan, and several German news outlets on Saturday said Europe would grant the green light to releasing the extra cash. \"Things are going to get better,\" Samaras said. \"Europe is voting for Greece and are seeing the changes underway.\" Eurozone finance ministers are meeting October 8, and an EU summit on October 18 and 19 is expected to decide on the Greek request for a two-year extension, which EU and IMF officials say may require extra funding. According to a finance ministry source, the package includes around seven billion euros in cuts affecting higher pensions, benefits and the salaries of better-paid civil servants such as judges, professors and police officers. Another 3.5 billion euros is to be saved from organisational reforms and the early retirement of 15,000 civil servants. And a further three billion euros is to be raised in additional taxes. The package was presented by head of Greece\'s financial experts team, Panos Tsakloglou, at a euro working group meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the finance ministry source told AFP. It is to be submitted alongside the draft 2013 budget to parliament on Monday. Doctors, lawyers, journalists, teachers and even state security staff have staged strikes and walkouts this month against the new measures. After two years of austerity, nearly one in four Greeks is unemployed according to official figures, which unions say only give a partial picture. On Wednesday, police clashed with masked youths in Athens during a general strike and demonstrations that drew some 34,000 people to the city centre. Police said they had made 23 arrests, including 10 minors. Another 18,000 people protested in the northern city of Thessaloniki according to police.

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