Business World

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Tax rises as Greece talks continue

Greece has imposed a wave of new tax rises
Greece has imposed a wave of new tax rises
Greek PM George Papandreou, left, talks with OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria during a meeting in Athens (AP)

Greece has imposed a wave of new tax rises despite recession and high unemployment, as EU finance ministers met to discuss the country's debt crisis.

The government increased VAT from 19pc to 21pc, as part of the austerity package intended to cut the budget deficit by almost a third this year.

It raised the cost of fuel and most consumer goods and services, although many retailers have said they will try to minimise the effect on shop prices.

Greece will present the first results of its austerity measures at the EU ministerial meetings, and said it is looking for political rather than financial backing to pull through a crisis that has hammered the euro and alarmed global markets.

Both Athens and Berlin have dismissed reports that the finance ministers would decide to extend financial aid to Greece. As Europe's largest economy, Germany would be deeply involved in any bailout, and has strongly resisted the idea.

EU officials said at the weekend they had developed a set of options to help Greece, but Athens would have to arrange for possible loan guarantees with each individual government.

Greece's finance ministry said the austerity programme, which also involves civil service wage cuts and freezes on staff hiring and pensions, "appears sufficient" to meet budget saving targets.

The cutbacks have angered unions, which responded with strikes and demonstrations that were marred by extensive riots.

Opinion polls show the public is increasingly unwilling to accept the measures. While one in two Greeks agreed that the austerity package was "generally in the right direction" to help government finances, 42pc disagreed, according to a survey published in the Ethnos newspaper. Nearly 66pc said the cutbacks were unfair.

A poll in the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper found that 51pc of respondents were prepared to take action against retirement age increases and cuts in wages and pensions.

PA Media

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