Greece’s socialist leader has accused International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde of trying to “humiliate” his crisis-hit country by saying that Greeks avoid paying taxes.
“Nobody can humiliate the Greek people during the crisis, and I say this today addressing specifically Ms. Lagarde... who with her stance insulted the Greek people,” Evangelos Venizelos told an election rally filmed late on May 26 and broadcast yesterday.
“I call on her to re-think what she wanted to say.”
On May 25, the British newspaper The Guardian quoted Lagarde as urging Greeks to “help themselves collectively” by all paying their taxes, saying she was more concerned about sub-Saharan Africans in poverty than Greeks hit by the economic crisis.
The comments drew thousands of comments on her Facebook page, largely from Greeks criticizing the remarks.
Late on May 26 the IMF chief responded: “I am very sympathetic to the Greek people and the challenges they are facing. That’s why the IMF is supporting Greece in its endeavor to overcome the current crisis.”
The French government also spoke out yesterday against comments by Lagarde. “I find (Lagarde’s comments) rather simplistic and stereotypical,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told French television.
Greece may Run Out of Money: Papademos
Meanwhile, former Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos warned Greece may run out of money by the end of June if international bailout funds are cut off following next month’s election, a newspaper reported yesterday.
“From late June onwards, the ability of the government to fund its obligations fully depends on the approval of the subsequent installments of loans from the EFSF and the IMF,” To Vima newspaper quoted Papademos as saying in a leaked memo.
“The available funds in the Greek government will be reduced gradually from about 3.8 billion euros on May 11 to about 700 million euros on June 18 and from June 20 will enter negative territory at the level of around one billion euros.” Centre-left To Vima said Papademos made the warning in a memo to President Carolos Papoulias dated May 11 that was then circulated to party leaders as they tried to form a coalition after an inconclusive May 6 vote.
Separately, Greece’s conservatives have regained an opinion poll lead that would allow the formation of a pro-bailout government committed to keeping the country in the euro zone, a batch of new surveys showed on May 26. Greece was forced to call repeat elections for June 17 after a May 6 vote left parliament divided evenly between groups of parties that support and oppose the austerity conditions.
Five polls published in the weekend press showed the conservative New Democracy party, which supports the bailout, with a lead of between 0.5 and 5.7 points over the anti-bailout leftist Syrizia party.
Syrizia has said it would ditch the country’s bailout deal that has led to record unemployment and severe wage cuts. But Germany and other lenders have said they would cut the country’s funding, which would possibly force Greece to leave the euro, if it took such a step. New Democracy would get between 25.6 percent and 27.7 percent of the vote if the election was held today, according to the polls by Eleftheros Typos/Pulse, Proto Thema/Alco, Real News/MRB, To Vima/Kapa and Ethnos/MARC. Syrizia’s support was between 20.1 and 26 percent.