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Still no political consensus on Greek austerity

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Still no political consensus on Greek austerity
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Greece’s top politicians met again on Friday and once more failed to reach agreement on a response to the country’s severe debt crisis.

A five hour emergency meeting involving the prime minister, the president and leaders of all the main parties could not get broad political backing for debt-cutting measures which are needed for Athens to receive more EU/IMF bailout money.

Opposition parties have so far rejected the measures on the basis that they are stifling the economy.

“We don’t agree with a policy that kills the economy and destroys society,” conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras said.

“There is only one way out for Greece, the re-negotiation of the (EU/IMF) bailout deal,” Samaras added, saying Friday’s meeting had reached a “dead end.”

Thousands of Greeks have been protesting outside the Parliament building, angry that their living standards are falling while the politicians who got them into this mess go unpunished.

One woman said: “All these measures they are taking are against the workers, against the people. Why should the people pay for the thieves who took our money? They must pay, they must all end behind bars and new, worthy people should come into power.”

Greece’s young people are the angriest, one protester said: “We have reached a point where we don’t have jobs, we have nothing, we have no money. I am 22 years old and I have no idea what will happen in the future.”

Financial markets remain worried and the Athens stock exchange reversed gains on the failure to get a deal, closing 1.7 percent lower, with banks down 2.3 percent.

The markets were spooked when Claude Juncker, who chairs the meetings of euro zone finance ministers, said on Thursday that the IMF could withhold the next aid instalment, but there was some comfort on Friday when European Central Bank Governing Council member George Provopoulos said Greece will be able to repay its debt in full, without restructuring, if it sticks to its austerity plan; that helped pull up the value of the euro.

Also on Friday, the International Monetary Fund’s acting chief, John Lipsky, said the programmes put together by the fund and the Europe Union to support Greece do not anticipate any debt restructuring.

The IMF has warned Greece will need a decade to overcome its debt crisis.