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Greece: Economy to contract by more than seven percent

Greece: Economy to contract by more than seven percent
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Greece’s economy is expected to contract by more than seven percent this year, according to its prime minister.

Antonis Samaras made the gloomy forecast to his party in parliament as international finance officials arrived in Athens.

The so-called Troika team from the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund are expected to pressure the government to speed up reforms.

Analysts say Greece is behind on its 130 billion euro bailout targets.

Troika officials have told Greece to cut thousands more public sector jobs and privatise several publicly-owned companies.

Hundreds of civil servants marched through Athens shouting: “Enough with the cutbacks”.

“The European Union must change policy because this policy of harsh and one-sided austerity is a dead end. It is driving us to recession and unemployment,” said Kostas Tsikrikas, president of the civil servants union, ADEDY.

“This is clearly theft. This is our wealth, this is our property, these are our pensions. And now they are coming and stealing them from us,” said Panagiotis Vavougios from the pensioners’ civil servants union.

Surprisingly, Samaras told MPs he will return the country to growth within 18 months. He also plans to bring down unemployment to just 10 percent by the end of his four-year term. One in four Greeks are currently out of work.

But Germany has expressed doubts over whether Greece can fulfill its bailout obligations, meaning that Greeks are still some distance away from an optimistic future.