With loans coming in from international investors and a reduced primary deficit, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said better times are ahead.
By Andy Dabilis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 15/03/13
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the economy still needs improvement. [AFP]
Many Greeks are welcoming an announcement that further austerity measures to repay Greece's overwhelming debt will not be sought following three years of pay cuts, tax increases and slashed pensions.
"As soon as growth sets in, relief measures will slowly begin," Prime Minister Andonis Samaras said.
But, he warned, trying times remain. Collected taxes are far less than anticipated, unemployment is 27 percent and individual spending is almost at a standstill.
The EU-IMF-ECB Troika demanded the austerity measures in return for 239 billion euros in two bailouts to prop up Greece's economy. Troika inspectors are now checking on Greece's progress regarding long-delayed state enterprise privatisations and the sale or lease of state properties.
Economists continue to argue that Greece needs to grow its way out of the crisis, a target that Samaras has set by seeking foreign direct investment and cutting red tape.
"An economy cannot improve by austerity measures alone. It needs a living market," Aristides Hatzis, associate professor of economics and law at Athens University of Athens, told SETimes. "The only way out of this dead end is via structural reforms, markets and services liberalisation, privatisation and targeted spending cuts."
During their latest visit to Athens, inspectors pressed the issue of previously agreed on public employee layoffs and prosecution of tax cheats before releasing the latest 2.8 billion euro tranche.
Under the bailout terms adopted last December, Greece must also cut 25,000 jobs in the public sector this year for a total of 150,000 by 2016.
But not everyone in the ruling party agrees with the plan.
"[The Troika has] to realise and accept that Greek society has gone beyond the limits of what it can endure," Samaras' coalition partner Democratic Left party (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis said.
The additional measures, including the planned layoffs of public sectors' employees, have been a hard sell.
"Many Greeks still think the [Troika] memorandum is the cause of the crisis rather than the other way round," Platon Tinios, assistant professor of economics at Piraeus University, told SETimes.
"People have not come to grips with what the original problem was, and implicitly think they can go back to where we were," he said.
But some citizens said austerity is slowly changing their perception on the long-set government profligacy and workers used to largesse.
"Things are very difficult. But, to be sure, we all did spend too much," Andreas Dimitrakopoulos, 66, told SETimes.