Greece will not demand changes to overall targets included in its bailout plan but hopes to renegotiate policies preventing it from hitting those goals, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in his first policy speech since taking office.
Outlining his government's priorities before a confidence vote on Sunday, Samaras pledged to turn around the country's recession-hit economy, speed up privatisations and push through much-needed reforms to make the country investment-friendly.
"We don't want to change the targets," Samaras told parliament. "What needs to change is that which is hampering us from attaining the targets. We want to fight the recession."
Samaras said Greece had missed targets included in its bailout programme but promised to do all to keep the country in the euro. But in an apparent swipe at euro zone partners who have openly warned the country risks leaving the euro if it failed to keep its pledges, Samaras said it was difficult to move ahead with privatisations while foreign officials publicly discussed such a scenario.
Greece's crippling recession, now in its fifth year, must be contained if the country is to hit its targets, he said, adding that austerity measures that boosted unemployment must be scrapped. "With this uncontrolled recession, the programme's funding needs are rising. We want this to stop and to start getting out of this dead end," he said. "This is the subject of our renegotiation."
Samaras asked EU-IMF creditors for more time for a tough bailout programme, to ease the pain on an economy struggling in its fifth year of recession.
"We ask for the adjustment to be reached not in two years but later," he told parliament as he presented targets for the next four years, promising to push through a privatisation drive and keep Greece in the euro zone. In exchange for extending a 2014 deadline to meet strict deficit benchmarks, Samaras promised that his newly elected government would meet all other commitments which lenders have demanded.
(With AFP and Reuters inputs)