Greek Finance Minister: We Need More Time to Meet Loan Terms

Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras warned on Saturday his country needed more time to meet commitments made to EU-IMF lenders so to avoid making the current recession worse.

"The extension of the budgetary adjustment is necessary because of the recession," Stournaras told lawmakers during a three-day parliamentary session that ends Sunday with a confidence vote for the coalition led by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

"Budgetary sliding because of the recession should not be corrected by more (austerity) measures because a vicious circle would continue," Stournaras said.

However, he cautioned that Greece could not launch a renegotiation without first "taking the measures delineated in the adjustment plan."

"We must adopt the measures included in the second loan in February so that we do not threaten the release of this loan," he said.

Stournaras also urged reforms "to achieve a radical change to the state" and faster privatisations that were promised lenders but delayed by an extended election season.

Samaras' conservative New Democracy party leads a coalition of 179 seats with the socialist PASOK party and the much smaller Democratic Left in the 300-seat chamber.

Crisis-hit Athens is now drawing funds from a 130-billion-euro ($164 billion) lifeline but the government wants to renegotiate the agreement to avoid further job losses and put more emphasis on growth rather than austerity.

Since a June 16 election, some members of the coalition have made plain their desire to revisit terms of the second bailout agreed with lenders from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

But the task will not be easy as officials from the so-called troika of creditors have shown stiff resistance to any talk of renegotiation and refuse to give up money Athens urgently needs until progress is seen.

Greece is in its fifth year of recession.


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