Greece ousts head of national debt agency
GREECE yesterday replaced the head of its national debt management agency amid demands from the European Union that it tackle the crisis in its public finances.
The Greek finance ministry said that Spyros Papanicolaou had been replaced late Thursday by Petros Christodoulou, the former head of asset management at the National Bank of Greece. No explanation was given for the move.
Mr Christodoulou held various positions in global markets at Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase before joining the National Bank of Greece in 1998. He is expected to take up the position immediately.
The announcement came just hours before Greece was due to report to Brussels about how it had used currency swaps and other instruments in 2001 to lower the amount of public debt it reported. Greece said that the deal, made with US investment bank Goldman Sachs, was legal.
EU officials said that the letter still had not been received in Brussels as of early last night.
Greece has come under intense pressure from other EU nations to bring its finances under control as investor concern over its ability to repay its debt dented confidence in the euro. European finance ministers have told Athens that it must show signs of fiscal improvement by March 16 or it will be ordered to impose even tougher budget cuts.
Greece has promised to cut its deficit from an estimated 12.7pc of gross domestic product to 8.7pc this year. The government has introduced a series of measures, including a public-sector pay freeze and higher tax on petrol and alcohol.
Greek prime minister George Papandreou, who is facing a series of strikes at home, attended a meeting of socialist leaders in London yesterday. He said that Greece was taking action to address its debt crisis and was not looking for a banking-style bailout: "We're not looking for bailouts . . . [I'm] simply saying we have a programme and we need support for this."
George Papaconstantinou, the Greek finance minister, on Thursday called for the EU to be more specific on how it would support Greece in a crisis.
Eurozone leaders stopped short of promising a bailout last week. Instead they have issued a pledge for co-ordinated action to preserve the stability of the single currency.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU Competition Commissioner, said yesterday that while Greece deserved the EU's support, it must take action. "Greece has very serious problems that can only be tackled from Greece," he said. (© The Times, London)