The government has endorsed the austerity measures to keep receiving funds from the so-called “troika” of creditors: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Adoption of the package is necessary for the release of a long-delayed $31 billion rescue loan installment, without which Greece will be forced to default on its loans and may have to quit using the euro.
“We are now applying the spending cuts (to which) the country had committed itself to reduce its debt, cutting the deficit by $11.5 billion,” Samaras said while opening the 77th International Trade Fair in this northern Greek city. “But I’m telling you these will be the last such cuts.”
The new austerity measures are to be implemented over two years — 2013-14. But with Greece now in the fifth year of a deep recession that has seen its economy shrink by about 20 percent and the jobless rate soar to 24.4 percent in June, people are wary of any new cuts.
A variety of groups staged protest marches against Samaras on Saturday. Farmers smashed watermelons outside the Trade Fair’s premises, and anarchists briefly fought with riot police in the evening. But, otherwise, the marches ended peacefully, more so than during previous years.
Samaras was not taking any chances. Breaking with tradition, he made only a cursory appearance at the fair and canceled the traditional press conference where every premier each year outlines the economic policies of the coming year.