Friday, August 5, 2011

Greek austerity measures' unlikely opponent: an old roommate of the PM

by Helena Smith


August 5, 2011

In his ultra-modern office, seated behind an array of photographs autographed by the likes of Ted Kennedy and George Bush Snr, Antonis Samaras does not come across as a particularly anti-establishment figure.

But as president of Greece's main opposition, the centre-right New Democracy party, that is what he has become.

In Europe's epic battle to resolve the conundrum of Greece's crippling €350bn (£305bn) debt, the Harvard-trained economist has disagreed, fundamentally, with the "medicine" that has been meted out to the country.

"The medicine Greece has been given, doesn't work," he says, listing the barrage of tax increases, wage cuts and pension drops demanded by the "troika" (EU, ECB and IMF) in return for emergency aid.

"The austerity measures aren't working; the sacrifices that are being made aren't paying off. The treatment is simply so strong that there is a risk we will kill the economy before we kill the deficit."

Born into pedigree and privilege – just as George Papandreou, the socialist prime minister with whom he shared student digs in the US – the conservative leader has found himself sparring not only with his one-time close friend. Opposition to the "growth through austerity" formula that Greeks have been subjected to has also put Samaras at odds with other leaders in the centre-right European People's party, of which New Democracy is a member.


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