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Samaras Sees Rocky Road Before Recovery

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
Greek PM Antonis Samaras

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has warned his Cabinet that despite an infusion of $69 billion in rescue loans and more expected, that the country faces months of social upheaval as more austerity measures are worsening a deep recession.
Samaras said he expects a turnaround to begin by September when he said Greece will begin “taking off,” but in the meantime he said his uneasy coalition government needs to stick together.
That came during lunch with several Parliamentarians, ministers and Parliament Speaker Evangelos Meimarakis where the Premier acknowledged that Greeks beset by more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions would resist reforms he said were crucial to the country’s survival.
Despite that, the government has not moved on crucial bills to help alleviate household debt as consumers are being hounded by banks, and pensioners have to wait as long as 18 months to get paid and are not allowed to work in the meantime.
Samaras’ words came shortly after more than 60,000 people took to the streets of Athens to protest austerity during a 24-hour general strike. With the unemployment rate at a record 27 percent and the government beginning a long-delayed pledge to begin firing thousands of state workers, the jobless ranks could quickly surpass 30 percent and foster more unrest, analysts have said.
Samaras said he hopes a good tourism season will help the economy and that Greece could benefit when the German elections are held later this year. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who backs continued aid for Greece but only on condition of more austerity, is facing a challenge.
The newspaper Kathimerini said that Finance Ministry figures showed Greece was ahead of its deficit targets in January, producing a primary surplus of 415 million euros ($547 million)but only because of a cutback on paying bills. Revenues fell 239 million euros ($315 million) short of expectations as tax evasion is growing and the government has largely let tax cheats who owe more than $70 billion escape prosecution.
The government hopes that by facilitating services and overdue payments to Greeks and vendors that tension could be eased. Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos said that he had been given the green light following a separate meeting with Samaras to find the staff to reopen 137 out of a total of 655 intensive-care units that have closed down – an indication of the government’s concern about the state of healthcare and how this might impact its fortunes. Lykourentzos said this would require 108 doctors and 330 nurses to be hired.

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