Most Greeks feel new austerity measures are unfair


ATHENS: An overwhelming majority of Greeks believe new austerity measures the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for more financial aid are unfair and hurt the poorest sections of society, according to a poll on Saturday.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs the European Union and International Monetary Fund's blessing on measures worth nearly 12 billion euros (US$16bil) to unlock its next tranche of aid, without which it faces default and a potential exit from the eurozone.

The conservative-led coalition is struggling to strike a balance between demands from its international lenders and angry voters who see no light at the end of the austerity tunnel.

More than 90% of Greeks believe the planned spending cuts and reforms are unfair and burden the poor, a survey by polling agency MRB for yesterday's edition of Realnews showed.

Still, about 67% of those polled want Greece to stay in the euro while over 83% expected more austerity measures in coming years.

So far, Greece's government has reached agreement on 9.5 billion euros of the spending cuts the bulk of it from slashing wages, pensions and welfare benefits.

Athens also plans an increase in the retirement age to 67 from 65 and cuts in military and health spending.

Only 33% of the 1,003 surveyed said they believed these measures could help fix Greece's fiscal woes, while the vast majority said they were pessimistic about Greece's future.

The poll was conducted from September 18 to 20, as the government and inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF struggled to hammer out the new austerity package.

They failed clinch a deal at the last round of talks before the troika left Athens last weekend and the negotiations, marred by tension and disagreement over public sector reform, are due to resume in a week when the inspectors return to Athens.

In the meantime, the country's main private and public sector union plan to stage a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the first major walkout since a new government took power in June.

According to MRB, the conservative New Democracy party would once again win the vote if elections were held now but the main opposition party, the radical leftist Syriza group, has narrowed the gap to just 0.5 percentage points from 1.8 points previously. Reuters

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