Greece: Older civil servants to face brunt of cuts

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece and debt inspectors have apparently agreed that older civil servants near retirement age will bear the brunt of personnel cuts in the public sector, according to media reports.

European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials accepted the proposal that most of the 30,000 cuts in public sector personnel by the end of the year should affect civil servants over 60 who are close to retirement age, private TV channel Mega reported, quoting government officials.

The officials were speaking anonymously because the Cabinet has yet to confirm the agreement. It will do so in a meeting set to start Sunday evening. The proposal was drawn up by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Public Sector Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas.

Venizelos is still on talks with the debt inspectors regarding the draft 2012 budget, which will be finalized at the Cabinet meeting and introduced in Parliament Monday.

Up to 23,000 older civil servants will be place “in reserve,” that is, suspended with reduced pay, by the end of the year. Another 7,000 suspensions will come from the abolition or merger of about 150 state agencies.

Those mergers, decided by the government last year, have stalled and, in the few cases that they have gone ahead, no one has yet been fired. This has led to grumbling even among the ruling socialists.

“You cannot announce mergers and not do them,” Christos Protopapas, one of the leaders of the socialist parliamentary group, said in a radio interview, pointing the finger at deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos, who has been in charge of that reform.

At stake is the disbursement of (euro) 8 billion ($10.8 billion) by Greece’s creditors, the sixth installment of a (euro) 110 billion bailout package agreed on in May 2010 to save Greece from defaulting on its debt. A decision made July 21 to provide a second package, worth (euro) 109 billion ($147 billion) has yet to be finalized.

Greece, eagerly looking for foreign investments to help it jump-start its recession-mired economy, got a rare piece of good news Saturday, with an investment agreement signed with Qatar that involves the emirate buying a stake in a Greek gold mining company.

The agreement, signed at a meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, comes a year after a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation signed in September 2010 by Papandreou and Al Thani in New York. Hellenic Gold President Dimitris Koutras and Qatar Holding LLC CEO Ahmad Mohammad Al-Sayed signed the investment agreement.

“This (agreement) signifies Qatar’s trust in the Greek economy,” Papandreou told reporters after the meeting.

Qatar had previously expressed interest in the residential and commercial development of the former Athens airport and in a cargo port terminal in western Greece.

The cargo port terminal investment fell through, while the airport project has stalled.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is also set to be a major stakeholder in the bank that will result from the merger of Greece’s two top private banks, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.

Al Thani expressed renewed interest in the development of the former airport as well as for investments in energy and tourism.

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