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Europe
Greeks say austerity steps 'unfair'
Poll shows three quarters of people feel measures are hitting low-income earners.
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2010 14:43 GMT
A pensioner holds a banner reading 'We deny' during a budget cut protest in Athens last month [AFP]

Three quarters of Greeks think that government plans to cut the country's huge budget deficit are "socially unfair" because they are aimed at low-income earners, a poll has showed.

The survey results also revealed that nearly half of Greeks did not view a recently agreed EU emergency finance mechanism, arranged to provide a safety net for Greece's debts, as positive.

Facing rising borrowing costs and pressure from its eurozone peers, the Socialist-led government has cut public wages, frozen pensions and raised taxes to cut the budget gap by almost a third to 8.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Friday's poll showed 75.2 per cent of respondents did not like the measures, mainly because they thought they hit pensioners and salaried workers too much and did not contribute to growth.

Nearly as many - 72.2 per cent - believed the direction of developments were "bad" or "very bad," according to the survey taken by agency MRB and published in the Realnews weekly.

Nervous investors

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union have supported the austerity steps and say they should be adequate to prevent a deepening of the crisis.

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Investors are keeping a close eye on public opinion because they are still unsure whether the government will be able to carry them out.

Demonstrators have staged weekly marches in Athens, and memories of violent 2009 clashes between protesters and police have raised concern that the government may lose its nerve if social unrest rises.

The poll showed an even split between those who thought the measures went far enough and those who thought they did not.

Respondents were sceptical about the EU-IMF emergency plan agreed last month, with 49.8 per cent seeing it as not so positive or not positive at all and only 36.6 per cent viewing it as positive or very positive.

Under the accord, Greece would receive co-ordinated bilateral loans from eurozone countries and IMF aid in a support package worth millions of dollars if it faced severe difficulties.

Greece says it will turn to the plan only if it is unable to borrow on markets and is trying to convince investors it can shrink its huge deficit and eventually cut a debt load equal to an expected 120 per cent of its annual economic output.

It is facing weak foreign demand for its bonds and is struggling to raise about $22bn to roll over debt and cover spending through to the end of May.

Despite the safety net agreement, the country's borrowing costs rose this week and remain more than double that of fellow eurozone member Germany.

The Socialists maintained a wide lead in popularity over the right-of-centre New Democracy party, the poll showed, with 31.9 per cent support against 21.2 per cent.

Source:
Agencies
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