More than half of Greeks say they will take to the streets if the government agrees new austerity measures in talks with the EU and the IMF, according to a poll released on Friday.
The debt-choked country is hoping to conclude a deal with EU and IMF officials on more than 20 billion euros ($32 billion) of deficit-cutting measures to get access to a multi-billion-euro loan package and avoid default. European officials say an agreement is imminent and will be unveiled on Sunday.
"The economic measures we must take ... are necessary for our country's protection, for our future, for us to be able to stand on our feet," Prime Minister George Papandreou told parliament. "Today the top priority is the survival of the nation. This is the red line."
Union officials said Greece had been asked to slash its deficit from 13.9 percent of GDP last year to below 3 percent by 2012 by raising value added tax, scrapping public sector bonuses amounting to two extra months' pay, and freezing civil servants' wages.
In an ALCO poll for the newspaper Proto Thema, 51.3 percent said they would take to the streets if these new measures were agreed.
Nearly half of those surveyed said they wanted a national unity government to handle the crisis.
"I don't think these measures will get us out of the crisis. There is no salvation for Greece," said Vassilis Fragiskakis, 32, owner of a glass factory that employees 35 people and has seen business suffer in the last two months. "It's tragic."
Investors fear that public opposition may yet thwart the austerity programme. The euro dropped to $1.3275 from $1.3290 after the poll was published.
However, in another poll by Kappa Research for To Vima, just over half said it had been right to ask the EU and the IMF for help, and Papandreou was still the most popular choice for prime minister, with 42.7 percent support.
Strikes and protest
Both private and public sector unions have already said they will step up protests.
Tens of thousands of Greeks are expected to march in the traditional May Day protest on Saturday, and the public sector union called for a 4-hour work stoppage for Tuesday, on top of a nationwide strike already set for Wednesday.
The main opposition party, the conservative New Democracy, said austerity measures would further deepen the recession.
But Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the government would not buckle, in a country where many reforms have been scrapped in the wake of street protests.
"No one should doubt our will to clash with vested interests, big or small, to achieve the national goal," he told a conference. "We will not back down, we will not bow to any political cost."
He called for a meeting of the main political party leaders to discuss the deal, his office said on Friday.
The Socialist government, elected in October on a promise to tax the rich and help the poor, has already announced three sets of austerity steps since revealing last year that the budget deficit had shot up to more than twice previous forecasts. Economists estimate that the austerity measures could contribute to an economic contraction steeper than last year's 2.0 percent. Moody's cited this concern as a factor in its decision to cut the credit ratings of nine Greek banks.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Mayıs 2010, 12:49