Tax and customs officials walk off the job in Greece

Tax and customs officials walk off the job in Greece
# 04 February 2010 14:38 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA-Economics. Greek customs and tax officials walked off the job for 48 hours Thursday, in the first strike against a government austerity program designed to lift Greece out of a debt crisis that has shaken the entire European Union, Abc news reported.

The customs strike is expected to choke imported supplies entering the market until next week, as the walkout will end as the weekend begins. Fuel supplies in particular are the most likely to be affected.

Greece is under intense pressure from markets and other EU governments to bring its budget deficit down from 12.7 percent of economic output last year to 2 percent in 2013. Doubts about Greece’s finances have also affected market sentiment toward the debt of Portugal and Spain, two other countries struggling with deficits.

Market worries focus on the risk that political resistance to cutbacks will keep Greece from sticking to its plan. A Greek default would be a serious blow to the shared euro currency, but Greece and the EU say that won’t happen.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is pushing austerity measures such as blanket civil service pay freeze, higher retirement ages and an increase in fuel tax — although he has not given details. The EU has backed the plan but has warned it could demand Athens make even more cutbacks.

EU Economy Commissioner Joaqin Almunia called the Greek program "achievable" and a European Commission report pressed Greece to tackle problems of competitiveness, including high public and private sector wage levels.

Wages are one of the few levers eurozone governments have to make their economies more competitive because the 16 members of the shared currency cannot unilaterally devalue the euro or change interest rates to calm rising prices.

Greece has agreed to report regularly to the EU on what it is doing, starting in mid-March.

But unions, which had so far been muted, have begun reacting. The customs and tax officials’ strike will be followed next week by a nationwide 24-hour civil servants’ strike on Wednesday, while one of Greece’s largest umbrella unions, GSEE, which represents private sector works, is aiming to call a 24-hour strike on Feb. 24
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