Greek citizens not convinced on belt-tightening measures

Greek citizens not convinced on belt-tightening measures

ATHENS - Reuters
Greek citizens not convinced on belt-tightening measures

An unidentified woman walks past graffiti outside the Athens’ Academy, Greece. AFP photo

An overwhelming majority of Greeks believe new austerity measures the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for more financial aid are unfair and hurt the poorest sections of society, a poll showed over the weekend.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs the European Union and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) blessing on measures worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) to unlock its next tranche of aid, without which it faces default and exit from the eurozone.

The conservative-led coalition is struggling to strike a balance between demands from its international lenders and angry voters who see no light at the end of the austerity tunnel.

More than 90 percent of Greeks believe the planned spending cuts and reforms are unfair and burden the poor, a survey by polling agency MRB for yesterday’s edition of Realnews showed. Still, about 67 percent of those polled want Greece to stay in the euro. Speculation of Greece exiting the single currency has receded since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s pro-euro, pro-bailout government took power in June, but remains alive as Athens struggles to meet its bailout targets.

In an interview with Greek daily Kathimerini, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti urged Athens to stay the course on austerity and assured Greeks the eurozone was not looking to cut Greece loose.

“A Greek exit from the euro area is a scenario that nobody contemplates,” he told the newspaper’s Sunday edition. “Greece has already made a lot of progress and must continue the solid process of fiscal discipline and structural reforms because this is in its best interest.”

So far, Greece’s government has reached agreement on 9.5 billion euros of the spending cuts - the bulk of it from slashing wages, pensions and welfare benefits. Only 33 percent of the 1,003 surveyed said they believed these measures can help fix Greece’s fiscal woes, while the vast majority said they were pessimistic about Greece’s future and expected more austerity measures in coming years.