No more austerity, Greek PM promises
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras lights a candle at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul March 4, 2013, after his meeting with the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I. REUTERS photoGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on March 9 promised his recession-weary nation that there would be "no more austerity measures" as international creditors prolonged an audit of crisis reforms.
"There will be no more austerity measures," Samaras said in a televised speech to his conservative party's political committee.
"And as soon as growth sets in, relief measures will slowly begin," Samaras said. But he noted that Greece's ailing economy was "out of intensive care, not out of the hospital." Representatives from the so-called troika of Greece's creditors -- the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- are currently reviewing the steps Greece has taken to meet its multi-billion bailout obligations.
Thorny issues that Athens still needs to address include shrinking the number of jobs in the public sector, speed up privatisation plans and recapitalise four of its main banks.
The auditors have decided to extend their stay by another week and a scheduled meeting with the PM on March 7 was scrapped.
But Samaras on March 9 denied there was a stalemate in talks. "There is discussion over certain things. I would not call it a hitch, mainly a discussion over how to apply agreed (measures)," he told financial weekly Axia in an interview.
Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015.
The job cuts have sparked friction with Samaras' junior coalition partner Fotis Kouvelis, head of the moderate Democratic Left party, who is citing Greece's soaring unemployment rate.
Facing a sixth consecutive year of recession, the heavily-indebted country has been relying on international rescue packages to avoid bankruptcy.
A return to growth initially foreseen for 2012 is now not expected before 2014.
Since 2010, the EU and the IMF have committed 240 billion euros ($314 billion) overall in rescue loans to Greece.
The next payment to Greece, of 2.8 billion euros, is due at the end of March.