BERLIN – Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, wants international lenders to give his country more time to adhere to reform demands. According to him, the extension will aid Greece’s economy get back in shape. He will meet with the head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the week.
Samaras is leading a country that is going through its fifth year of recession. During this time of increasing political and social discontent, the Greek president seeks to soften the impact of budget cuts on society by extending the time required to pass the reforms.
“Let me be very explicit: we are not asking for additional money. We adhere to our commitments and meet all requirements. We must implement growth because it reduces the financial gaps.” Samaras said in Wednesday’s edition of the Bild newspaper.
“All we want is a little air to allow the economy to function and increase state revenues. More time does not automatically mean more money,” he added.
Samaras is expected to press for Greece to receive up to two years to reduce its deficit to below 3% of the GDP, but did not say how much extension he wanted. The deficit was 9.3% of GDP in 2011.
Samaras abounded that Greece, which received two bailouts, is making progress with the tough reforms that its lenders have demanded, but acknowledged that many things went wrong in the past.
“Soon we will have a smaller public service but healthy and significantly more efficient,” he said.
“We are making progress, we are reducing the overall number of public employees and I have decided to hire only one person for every 10 retired civil servants,” he said.
Most of the cuts would come from reductions in spending on pensions, social benefits, wages in the public sector and health system costs, including laying off up to 40,000 employees.
Samaras is against Greece leaving the European Union because according to him, it would be a nightmare for the country and will reduce the standard of living by another 70%. Germany and other countries on the other hand, see otherwise.
“It would mean at least five years of recession and unemployment would increase by over 40%. A nightmare for Greece: economic collapse, social unrest and unseen crisis of democracy,” Samaras said.