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Samaras: Dark Period for Greece Has Ended

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras welcomed a debt deal agreed by lenders to unlock long-delayed aid, promising skeptical Greeks a new dawn after months of haggling under the threat of bankruptcy, although critics said all he has done is ensure years of poverty for many enduring harsh austerity measures.
“A very grey, a very dark period for Greece officially ended yesterday and it has ended for good,” Samaras said in a televised statement on Nov. 27, less than 24 hours after Eurozone finance ministers agreed on a complicated deal to relieve Greece’s debt, but keeping conditions of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.
“We Greeks were made for tough times, and when the going gets tough, it brings out the best in us,” he said. The Eurozone fiscal chiefs and the International Monetary Fund agreed to reduce Greek debt by 40 billion euros ($52 billion), opening the way for 43.7 billion euros ($56.5 billion) of loans to be disbursed by early 2013.
About 10 percent of that will go to pay interest on previous loans and the government plans to spend about 7 billion euros ($9 billion) to pay off arrears to suppliers, Samaras said. The Prime Minister promised that the latest cuts in a new austerity package of $17.45 billion would be the last, but political opponents said with the country’s recession worsening that he would be back asking for more later. The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) dismissed the deal as a “half-baked compromise.”
“At a time when the country and society are being demolished, the celebratory tone of the prime minister reveals either ignorance of the risk or hypocrisy,” SYRIZA said in a statement issued after Samaras’ TV talk to the nation. Earlier, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras claimed that the Eurogroup deal “does not include a viable plan for Greece and so is not a solution” and accused the conservative-led coalition of “following a strategy of subordination and being absent from negotiations.”
Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga said the agreement reached in Brussels was a “fragile compromise,” adding that “policy of the memorandum will be permanent through to 2030.” The Communist leader claimed that the new deal would lead to new austerity measures for the working class.
Athens also appointed a banker, Stelios Papadopoulos, to fill the vacant post of the chief of its debt agency that will manage a buyback of Greek debt that is included in the deal, which also has provisions to lower interest rates the government pays on the loans to 0.69 percent, extend repayment to 15 years and provide a 10-year interest-free grace period.
While the government will enjoy lenient terms, it has not acted to change onerous loan conditions that Greeks pay to banks despite big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, and the new deal means Greek banks will get scores of millions of euros to recapitalize them after a previous administration imposed big losses on investors.
(Sources: Kathimerini, Reuters)

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