Greece agrees to new austerity measures, Italy needs no external help
August 2, 2012 (TSR) – The Greek three-party coalition government leaders reached on Wednesday an agreement on the framework of a series of fresh austerity measures worth 11.5 billion euros (13.8 billion U.S. dollars) to secure further tranches of international bailout loans.
“Political leaders accepted the Premier’s proposal for spending cuts which are a prerequisite for the country’s stay in the euro zone and further negotiations with lenders,” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said.
He made the statement following a meeting of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras with socialist PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left party chief Fotis Kouvelis.
The Greek official added that the measures, to be implemented over the next two years, would be finalized in coordination with international lenders by September. Efforts were being made so that the new cuts will have the smallest possible social impact on the most vulnerable groups of recession- hit Greeks, he added.
After a series of talks with visiting auditors of European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders in Athens over the past week, Samaras pushed his coalition partners for the deal on the savings demanded by creditors.
According to sources, he argued that it was a necessary step to secure a positive progress report from auditors which will ensure the release of further loans to Greece this autumn.
It was also reported that the deal will pave the ground for a review of some harsh terms of the bailout agreements clinched since 2010 to keep the debt-ridden country afloat.
Venizelos and Kouvelis had expressed reservations that a new wave of austerity cuts would further fuel recession in the debt-stricken country. They suggested instead focus on an agreement with lenders on a two-year extension of the fiscal adjustment period to ease the pressure on Greek society.
However, creditors pressed for the new cuts to be introduced before agreeing on any renegotiation of conditions of bailout deals with Athens, since Greece has repeatedly missed time-tables on austerity and structural reform goals over the past two years.
In a statement after Wednesday’s meeting, Venizelos said that he reluctantly agreed to the Premier’s proposal for the sake of the country.
“We will not lead the country to elections,” he stressed in an indication that failure to reach a deal could lead to a collapse of the coalition government which was formed in June, following two rounds of general elections in Greece.
Uncertainty is a luxury Greece cannot afford at the moment, local analysts warned, while officials from the Finance Ministry said the delay in the release of new bailout loans has put pressure on cash reserves this summer.
Without the further support of international lenders, Greece could go bankrupt as soon as the coming autumn and be driven out of the European common currency zone in a development which could hit more European economies and the international financial system.
Also on Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said his country does not need any help from its eurozone partners at present.
Monti said Italy’s economic situation would be improved through its cooperation with the currency bloc, but warned of potential dangers if the economic crisis continued to spread.
Although currently Italy did not need external help, that did not mean it would not need “a breath of air” in the future, he said.
“The basic idea is that Italy does not seem to need special aid right now, especially not to save its economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the French government announced not to lower its economic forecast for 2012 despite flagging economic indicators, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said Wednesday.
Asked about any eventual move to revise down the country’s growth forecast, which was already lowered from a previous estimate of 0.7 percent, Moscovici said, “I don’t think so,” adding that Europe should focus more on growth.
Last month, French President Francois Hollande reported zero-growth over the first half of the year, adding more pressure on the socialist government to meet its pre-election pledges of boosting the economy and creating more jobs.