World Bulletin / News Desk
Greece is in a "Great Depression" similar to the American one in the 1930s, the country's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Sunday.
Samaras's comments come two days before a team of Greece's international lenders arrive in Athens to push for further austerity measures if the debt-laden country wants to qualify for further rescue payments and avoid a chaotic default.
Athens wants to soften the terms of a 130-billion euro bailout agreed last March with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, to soften their impact on an economy going through its worst post-war recession.
By the end of this year Greek GDP is expected to have shrunk by about a fifth in five consecutive years of recession since 2008, hammered by tax hikes, spending cuts and wage reductions required by two EU/IMF bailouts. Unemployment climbed to a record 22.6 percent in the first quarter.
"You had the Great Depression in the United States," Samaras told Clinton, who was visiting Greece as part of a delegation of Greek-American businessmen. "This is exactly what we're going through in Greece - it's our version of the Great Depression."
Athens must reduce its budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP by the end of 2014, from 9.3 percent of GDP in 2011 - requiring almost another 12 billion euros in cuts and higher taxes on top of the 17 billion successive governments have cut from the budget shortfall.
Greece wants its lenders to give it two more years to achieve the budget goal to avoid an even deeper economic slump but its lenders have opposed the idea because it would imply an even bigger financial aid to the country.
Highlighting growing frustration with Athens, German magazine "Der Spiegel" reported on Sunday, without citing sources, that the IMF may not take part in any additional financing for Greece.
The German and Greek finance ministries declined to comment on the report, which suggested additional support required for Athens could range from 10-50 billion euros.
Officials have already indicated there would be a shortfall on the current bailout. How much is likely to depend on the extent by much Greece misses its fiscal targets and the extent of support needed to keep its major banks afloat.
The inspection team of the international "troika" of the EU, the IMF and the ECB will focus on the 11.7 billion euros of spending cuts Athens needs to take in 2013 and 2014.
Clinton criticized Greece's lenders for focusing excessively on austerity, saying Athens will be more likely to repay its debt if its manages economic recovery first.
"(It) is self-defeating... if every day people are saying this may or may not work to give us back a 100 cents on the dollar, so give us more austerity today," he told Samaras.
"People need something to look forward to when they get up in the morning -- young Greeks need something to believe in so they can stake their future out here," Clinton said.
The ruble makes small gain Friday morning, but RTS index continues to contract
Norwegian energy company Statoil, which suspended 5 rigs in the last 2 months, granted $610 million for development of its gas fields
Putin earlier announced pipeline project via Bulgaria would be cancelled.
President Vladimir Putin said that Russia needed to take the opportunity to diversify its economy to protect it from external shocks.
Verdi said in a statement that workers at four of those centres had decided to continue their strike until Saturday and employees at the Graben warehouse would strike until Dec. 24.
Russia suffers as sanctions bite economy; will crisis make Ukraine conflict too costly?
EU to tighten sanctions on Crimea in time for leaders summit to send message to Russia
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries declined to cut production at a Nov. 27 meeting and, despite slumping prices, major Gulf OPEC members have since shown no sign of reversing course
Iran plans to export petrochemical products to Europe after one year of U.S.-led sanctions on its petchem market
Russia's central bank took drastic action to defend its rouble currency in a surprise midnight raising of interest rates by 650 basis points to 17 percent.
It argues that a major submarine ridge of the Arctic Ocean is an extension of its autonomous Greenland.
Russia is the second biggest exporter of illicit money, India is fourth, Brazil seventh and South Africa is 12th, according to the report.
Brent for January fell to a low of $60.28 a barrel in Asian trade, down $1.57 and its lowest since July 2009
Energy cooperation will be one of the topics on the agenda
Labour union Verdi said the strike had started at five of Amazon's nine distribution centres in Germany but added it would only know later in the day how many workers participated
Abdullah al-Badri said the oil price, which dropped to a succession of five-year lows in recent days, had fallen further than market fundamentals should have dictated