Prime Minister George Papandreou’s speech on Saturday evening in Thessaloniki was designed to reassure not only his Greek citizens that all would be well but also that those holding Greek sovereign debt would be getting their money back. The government’s top priority, he said, is “to save the country from bankruptcy.”
Said Papandreou: "We have taken the decision to fight to avoid a catastrophe for our country and its citizens: bankruptcy. We will remain in the Euro. And this meant and means difficult decisions.... If this year the recession [already in its third year] is markedly greater than the estimates of international organisations on which the medium-term fiscal plan [to obtain additional bailouts from the European Central Bank] was based, despite that, Greece will make its fiscal targets, doing all that’s needed in this direction."
Those difficult decisions, as noted here and here, have involved raising the Value-Added Tax rate, seeking out tax-evaders, selling off state-owned assets, firing 20,000 government workers and cutting the salaries of others, and imposing a one-time “solidarity contribution” tax — decisions that have so angered the citizenry that 20,000 of them showed up at his speech (probably why it was in Thessaloniki in northern Greece rather than in more heavily populated Athens) to protest them and him and his cabinet.
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Photo of George Papandreou: AP Images