Wednesday

26th Jul 2017

IMF worried by social cost of Greek austerity

Budget cuts alone will not save the Greek economy as the country is reaching the "limit" of what society can endure, the International Monetary Fund's point-man for Athens has said, in a departure from the institution's traditionally more technocratic communiques.

"We will have to slow down a little as far as fiscal adjustment is concerned and move faster - much faster - with the reforms needed to modernise the economy," Poul Thomsen, a Danish IMF official overseeing the Greek austerity programme told Greek daily Kathimerini on Wednesday (1 February).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Tear gas - the official said Greek society is reaching the end of its tether after a series of protests - some violent - last year (Photo: Contact)

He spoke of the "limitations" of political support and social tolerance toward the deficit-cutting measures - Greece saw violent street clashes and several days of general strikes in protest at cost-cutting last year.

Thomsen also called for political recognition of the painful reforms that Greece has already undertaken.

"I share the frustration of many Greek officials that much of the criticism from abroad overlooks the fact that Greece has done a lot, at a great cost to the population. While much still needs to be done, Greece has already come quite a long way. Failing to recognise this will not help mobilise support for the programme," he said.

"In this regard, I think that officials - myself included - need perhaps to be more sensitive to ensuring that we send a balanced signal when we say that the programme is off-track."

His words come just days after EU leaders scolded the Greek premier for not keeping to an agreed reform programme, including lowering labour cost and privatising the remaining state assets.

Germany has been the loudest critic. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of her "frustration" with Athens even as Berlin circulated a controversial idea to have an EU commissioner put in charge of Greece with power over all its spending decisions.

On the difficult talks between the Greek government and the "troika" - comprising of the IMF, the EU commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) - Thomsen said a deal on the second bail-out, worth €130 billion, will be "completed very soon, it's a matter of days."

According to the Imerisia newspaper, Athens is willing to sign up to another €4.4 billion worth of spending cuts this year to secure the deal. The cuts - amounting to about 2 percent of gross domestic product - will be in defence, health-care and pharmaceutical spending.

Greece's first bail-out from May 2010, amounting to €110 billion, relied on tax hikes and cuts in wages and pensions, reducing the country's deficit from €24.7 billion to €5 billion in just two years. But the country's soaring borrowing costs have made its debt unsustainable.

A parallel, unprecedented deal with private lenders is being sought to slash at least 50 percent of the interest creditors would cash in on some €200 billion worth of Greek bonds - a precondition for the second IMF-EU-ECB bail-out.

Negotiations on the deal have become drawn out over recent weeks. One of the sticking points concerns whether the ECB and governments should also incur losses alongside the private sector.

Merkel downplays budget tsar idea

German leader Angela Merkel on Monday spoke of her "frustration" at the slow pace of reform in Greece but avoided direct talk of imposing fiscal control from Brussels, an idea her French counterpart called undemocratic.

Berlin digs in heels on extra €15bn for Greece

Germany has ruled out any extra contribution from national governments or the European Central Bank to the second Greek bail-out - as requested by the Greek government. Meanwhile, sources close to the negotiations speak of a €15bn funding gap.

Nerves fray as Greece extends bail-out talks

Greek talks on a vital €130 billion bail-out have gone into overtime as its government struggles to secure the backing of political parties for more spending cuts.

IMF: eurozone at centre of coming storm

IMF chief Lagarde has warned of "dark clouds" on the economic horizon, adding that bail-out funds should be used to help banks to stop a credit crunch.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU and US scrap on Russia sanctions gets worse
  2. Czechs, Hungarians, Polish have month to start taking migrants
  3. EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7
  4. Court told to 'dismiss' case against EU migrant quotas
  5. Russia's EU pipeline at 'risk' after US vote
  6. EU Commission to act on Poland
  7. EU and Turkey fail to defuse tensions
  8. European law will apply 'for years' in the UK, says EU judge