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Greece aims at good marks from auditors September 9, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
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MORE than 12,000 protesters marched on Saturday against fresh austerity measures the Greek government has prepared to win another slice of an international bailout loan.

Firemen protest new austerity measures in Greece.

MORE THAN 12,000 PROTESTERS IN GREECE HAVE MARCHED AGAINST FRESH AUSTERITY MEASURES.

As auditors from Greece’s international creditors inspected the government’s books, four separate marches took place in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The main trade unions, opposition parties including the radical left Syriza Party and communist activists all joined the protest.

Police put the turnout at more than 12,000, significantly less than the 25,000 who showed up for the same march last year.

The protesters’ message is that the country can take no more of the austerity measures successive Greek governments have imposed in return for the international bailout from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The cuts imposed have, according to the government’s own figures, driven down the standard of living in Greece by 35 per cent as wages, perks and even pensions have been slashed back.

Unemployment has shot up with nearly a quarter of the workforce out of work, which in turn has driven the country deeper into recession, now in its fifth year.

But further cuts to civil service wages, pensions and other public expenditure are on the cards.

The GSEE, the main trade union federation for the private sector, has denounced Greece’s international creditors for pressuring the government to deregulate the labour market.

Its private sector counterpart Adedy has condemned as “barbaric” the latest round of cuts announced by the government.

Saturday’s demonstrations are part of the traditional autumn calendar.

This year’s march however had an added significance because of the visit of the international auditors from the so-called troika of the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank.

The troika has been demanding Athens make up for lost time after delays brought on by back-to-back elections that caused a two-month political deadlock.

Earlier Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted that his priority was to convince them to release the next loan instalment, worth 31.5 billion euro ($A38.96 billion).

Opening an international fair in Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki he said the coalition government was determined to hold to its commitments despite growing public hostility.

A favourable assessment from the auditors could also determine whether Athens gets extra time to make spending cuts in return for badly needed loans.

They will review Greece’s efforts to cut its huge deficit and adopt reforms needed to help improve its economic competitiveness as agreed as part of its 130-billion-euro bailout package.

The government has to finalise a new austerity program within days to save more than 11.5 billion euros over 2013 and 2014.

But it is pressing for “breathing space” to carry out cuts, arguing that reducing spending too much too fast will only further depress the economy.

A deeper than expected recession has made it even harder to meet the agreed targets.

Samaras warned on Friday after a meeting with European Union president Herman Van Rompuy that “the resistance of Greeks has reached its limit, which means we need a recovery as soon as possible.”

Van Rompuy for his part warned that Greece had to deliver on promised fiscal and reform results to obtain further support.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is set to meet the chief troika auditors on Sunday afternoon, a source in his ministry said, and present the government’s latest savings plan so far.

Samaras is to meet the leaders of the parties in his coalition government on Sunday night, followed by a meeting with the troika on Monday morning.

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