Friday, April 22, 2011

Greek anger mounts at €50bn privatisation plans

April 22, 2011

A year ago George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, standing on the pretty island of Kastellorizo, compared his country to a sinking ship. Racked by huge public debt and a runaway deficit, pounded by the markets and merciless bond vigilantes, Athens, he announced, had no option left.

It would have to do what no other eurozone capital had done to date: accept a rescue from the EU and IMF involving €110bn (£97bn) in financial aid, the biggest bailout in western history.

"I have asked our partners to contribute decisively in order to give Greece a safe harbour," he said. "At the same time, we are sending a strong message to the markets that the EU is serious about protecting its common interests and common currency."

The rescue, which saw the bloc tearing up its own rules, was the single biggest humiliation for Greece since the return of democracy in 1974. But as speculation on the inevitability of a sovereign default in Athens mounts and Europe's debt crisis goes from bad to worse, it seems other indignities are in store: for the first time since its foundation as a modern state, Greece will soon be forced to sell off prized national assets, including the lease of prime real estate and sun-soaked islands, in what is poised to become one of the most ambitious privatisation programmes ever.


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