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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-03-04
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 IMF welcomes government's fiscal measuresWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) welcomed in a statement on Wednesday the fiscal measures announced by the Greek government.
"We welcome the substantial fiscal measures announced by the Greek authorities today (Wednesday). The authorities have put together a very strong fiscal package for 2010. The implementation of the fiscal program will be a crucial step forward in a multi-year process," the statement said.
"We also encourage the authorities to develop and implement soon significant reforms to boost productivity and growth, complementing the fiscal consolidation that is now underway. We stand ready to support the implementation of the authorities' plans by sharing our technical expertise in these matters," it added.
 Rehn welcomes measuresThe Greek government‚s announcement of new supplementary measures was a critical turn in the history of the country‚s fiscal and economic developments, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the EU Commissioner said what is most important now is the full and rapid implementation of the measures.
Rehn said Greece was showing determination and unity in reforming the country and putting its fiscal deficit under control. He said that measures announced would help Greece restoring its confidence in international markets and among its European partners, and contribute in calming down market concerns.
Commenting on the measures announced, Rehn said the measures needed approval by the Greek Parliament and called for the maximum possible consensus among opposition political parties.
The Commissioner said the EU‚s executive was present to help Greece and the Greek society and stressed that himself has many Greek friends wishing to see real changes in the society.
"We had an economic, political and statistical explosion of the Greek fiscal deficit in recent years," which led EU to take decision to correct the deficit, Rehn said, while he expressed his satisfaction that measures focused on spending and stressed they were of permanent nature with a positive impact on the Greek economy‚s competitiveness -the "Achilles‚ heel" of the country in recent years.
The Commission stressed, however, that the measures were adequate to achieving this year‚s goals, but further fiscal consolidation was needed in 2011 and 2012.
 Measures a clear response to marketsA package of measures approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday fully strengthened a target of reducing the country's fiscal deficit by four percentage points in 2010 -even more- offering a clear response to the European Commission and to markets, Greek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said the measures were obviously hard but necessary because they judged the country's ability to borrow in capital markets. He added that Greece was doing what it has to do and that talks with the European Union and its partners would continue in the coming days and weeks to ensure the necessary support. He left the door open, however, for Greece to refer to the International Monetary Fund if the country did not find the necessary EU support.
Papakonstantinou said the measures announced by the government was all it could do for 2010, while the government was taking additional permanent measures on the request of the European Commission, IMF and the European Central Bank and containing, or lowering payroll cost in the public sector. He added that payroll cost in the public sector has risen by 40 pct in the last five years. Papakonstantinou said the measures in the incomes policy were of permanent nature and would be implemented as long as the country remained under the supervision of the EU.
The government will examine any corrective moves after the country would be in a position to exit the EU's supervision procedure and will introduce a new payroll system in the public sector, Papakonstantinou said. All cutbacks in the incomes policy will be introduced retrospectively from January 1st.
The Finance minister said he expected the Greek economy to shrink by more than -0.3 pct -projected in the state budget- but below forecasts made by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece (of a recession between 1-2 percent).
Papakonstantinou said tax revenues in February were short of budget targets because of a series of strikes in the audit mechanism.
 KKE: Call for reactionThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday issued a call to all wage earners to join in the struggle to force the government to take back the economic measures it has announced, saying that developments had borne out its predictions of the coming storm against workers.
"This storm in now underway. The war launched by the government and the European Union against the people, with the consent of New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), is being waged on behalf of the Greek and European plutocracy. Also under the same attack are the peoples of Europe and more generally," a KKE announcement said.
The party's announcement said that the working classes had a responsibility and a duty to reject the "terrorist dilemmas and lies" of the government, the EU and plutocracy and to rise up.
"Patriotism is the struggle to stop the people becoming impoverished. Everyone must take to the street and join the struggle to stop the new, savage taxation in VAT and fuel, the drastic reduction of wages and pensions. We must avert the slaughter of the Easter/Christmas bonuses and the holiday benefit."
KKE asserted that it was a lie that the cut in these bonuses would only be in the public sector, saying that the ultimate target was to do away with them entirely in both the private and public sectors.
"We must stop the dismantling of social insurance and pensions, the facilitating of lay-offs and the abolition of collective agreements, measures that are ready and will form the next wave of the attack," the party announcement continued, warning that the measures were "not temporary" nor the last ones and that similar inroads into social gains will continue and become ever more savage unless these measures came up against a strong popular reaction right now.
 Tsipras blasts gov'tCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday that the additional economic measures announced by the government earlier in the day were pushing the Greek society and its gains into the fire.
"Today, the Greek government decided to surrender the Greek society and its conquests to the pyre," Tsipras said in Brussels, where he is attending a meeting of the European United Left-Nordic Green Alliance's (GUE/NGL) European Parliament group.
"However, what the government appears to be open-handedly giving to the speculators does not belong to it but to the Greek working people and which were achieved with struggles and sacrifices in the last decades," he added.
"No one can relegate to the fire what doesn't belong to him, especially when he hasn't received the owner's permission to do so, and in this case the owner is the Greek people, who's right it is to have the final say and choice," Tsipras continued.
 ASE opening: RiseEquity prices were rising at the opening of trade on Thursday on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), with the basic share price index up 1.00 percent, standing at 2,035.14 points at 11:00 a.m., and turnover at 25.960 million euros.
Individual sector indices were moving upward nearly across the board with the biggest gains in Travel and Recreation, up 1.00 percent; and Public Utilities, up 0.72 percent.
The biggest losses were in Media, down 1.29 percent; and Financial Services, down 2.33 percent.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks was up 0.87 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index was down 0.26 percent, and the FTSE/ASE-80 small cap index was up 0.85 percent.
Of the stocks moved, 29 were up, 20 were down, and 24 were unchanged.
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The additional austerity measures announced Wednesday and Prime Minister George Papandreou's indication that he may resort to the IMF if the EU does not support Greece with tangible steps, and opposition parties' and labour unions' strong reactions, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Be strong! At last, the austerity measures were announced".
APOGEVMATINI: "God help us - Greece faces a crucial turning point in its history - Foreign officials approve of the measures but do not assist".
AVGHI: "Rage over the looting - Severe attack against the civil servants' income - Now it is the private sector's turn".
AVRIANI: "Painful sacrifices without substance".
ELEFTHEROS: "Suffocating measures for households and market".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The 13th and 14th salary in the private sector is now targeted".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Unforgettable day! Storm of measures changing our lives".
ESTIA: "Storm of measures without prospect - The state is strangling the economy".
ETHNOS: "Severe austerity in salaries and storm of taxes".
IMERISSIA: "Tough adjustment for all".
KATHIMERINI: "Harsh measures instead of bankruptcy".
LOGOS: "Shock and awe over the new measures".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Unprecedented measures aiming to save 4.8 billion euros".
NIKI: "One step forward and two steps backward - The powerful Greece of the Olympic Games' does not exist any more".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Protests on Thursday all over the country against the 'burning' measures".
TA NEA: "Shock! The most painful measures the antidote to bankruptcy - Devastating austerity for all".
TO VIMA: "Everyone must become poorer to avoid bankruptcy - Unprecedented storm of measures".
VRADYNI: "The market will be devastated - VAT increase brings painful consequences to market".
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