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European finance ministers press for privatization as part of tough austerity plan
Greece is preparing to sell off billions of dollars worth of state assets including airports, highways and state-owned companies, as well as banks and real estate, to raise cash quickly to pay off loans, CNN reported.
Over the weekend, European finance ministers postponed their decision on giving Greece a 12-billion-euro loan until the country made additional spending cuts and began the privatization process, BBC News said. The 12-billion-euro loan is part of a larger 110-billion-euro bailout from the IMF and the euro zone, the International Business Times said.
Greece will have to raise 50 billion euros through privatization by 2015, CNN said. It also has to implement budget-cutting measures, even while faced with strong opposition in the streets, where protesters angry about high unemployment and public-sector job losses have been staging huge protests, resulting in a government reshuffle last week.
The country was experiencing rolling blackouts Monday as workers at the national power supplier began 48-hour strikes to protest privatization plans, the International Business Times said.
Acknowledging the anger in the streets, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the austerity measures would bring "hardships" but were "long overdue," CNN reported.
In March of last year, Greece was urged to consider selling some of its islands as an answer to its mounting debt problem, a suggestion that was put forward by two members of the German parliament in Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition, according to Reuters.
The two men, Josef Schlarmann and Frank Schaeffler, said at the time that they wanted to start a debate about what Greece could do to get out of its debt mess, BBC News said.