Published November 19, 2012
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will reshuffle his cabinet once he secures a vital loan tranche to make his government more effective in a new wave of austerity measures demanded by international lenders, government officials said on Monday.
Samaras will hold separate meetings with his two coalition partners, Socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis, later on Monday to discuss the new cabinet, the officials told Reuters.
"The reshuffle will take place after the installment," said one government official on condition of anonymity. "The Finance Minister will not be moved."
Euro zone finance ministers meet on Tuesday to unlock more aid for Greece and avert bankruptcy but hopes for a quick disbursement of more than 30 billion euros ($38 billion) remain dim as European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders squabble over how to resolve the country's debt crisis.
Officials told Reuters on Monday the tranche, plus outstanding cash making a total of 44 billion euros, will be paid on December 5 if Greece meets all conditions.
Greece has voted in a raft of tough budget cuts to meet lenders' conditions but has fallen short on some reforms that will make the economy more competitive, such as liberalizing professions and opening up markets.
Measures have been delayed by ministers dragging out discussions and by resistance in parliament, especially from MPs from the two leftist junior coalition partners. PASOK expelled six deputies for failing to back an austerity bill this month.
Samaras would propose the deputy PM posts to Venizelos and Kouvelis, and assign other cabinet posts to his partners in order to secure the widest possible backing in the coming months of difficult implementation, the government sources said.
They said the Socialist leader was open to the prospect but Kouvelis was hesitant, pressured from within his own party which already resists participation in austerity policies that have plunged Greece further into its worst recession in decades.
Government officials said ministers who have a poor track record with the troika of international lenders - the IMF, EU and European Central Bank - will be replaced but the finance and development ministers, Yannis Stournaras and Kostis Hatzidakis respectively, would stay.
"It won't be a PR trick to gain time. It will be a rare occasion when a reshuffle is done for practical reasons," said a second government official who declined to be named.
"Samaras will aim for consolidation and efficiency."
Analysts said a reshuffle is unlikely to give the government a much-needed boost in opinion polls. Recent polls show two thirds of Greeks disapprove of the government, seeing little hope, especially for unemployment, now at over 25 percent.
"There will be a fuss and the press will keep busy for a while but it will not mean much for the government's effectiveness or public support," said independent political analyst John Loulis.
"In today's climate, people just don't care," he said.