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Greece to Tackle Deficit, Corruption: Prime Minister

The European Summit kicked off Friday with Greece's mounting debt and deficit problems at the head of the conference agenda.

European leaders have pressed the country to launch tough reforms without alarming financial markets.

Greece is a repeat offender under the European Union's budget rules, as borrowing costs jumped since the Socialists revealed 2009's deficit would climb to 12.7 percent of gross domestic product. The country could become the euro zone's most indebted member in terms of GDP next year.

Based on EU Commission forecasts, Greece's debt will rise to 124.9 percent of GDP next year, becoming the highest ratio in the 16-nation euro zone.

Parthenon temple on Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece
AP
Parthenon temple on Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece

But Greece promised to do whatever it takes to check its vast deficit, responding to a backlash from markets unnerved by Fitch Ratings cutting Greek debt to BBB+ with a negative outlook, citing fiscal deterioration in the euro zone's weakest member.

"We are absolutely aware of the problems," new Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told CNBC. "We are ready to deal with the problems."

The country's new government has come in with a mandate for major change. It plans to cut down on bureaucracy, spending and corruption, according to Papandreou.

Papandreou outlined plans to turn Greece into a "more sustainable and competitive economy" and alleviate its burgeoning debt. They included cutting the country's major budget by 4 percent to get it to 9 percent of GDP next year.

He said the government had already decided to reduce government spending by 10 percent, saying it needs to be "much more thrifty in the way we use our money."

"The basic problem in Greece is we have systemic corruption," Papandreou said. In the past loose legislation has led to "a huge wave of tax evasion," but that the government plans to tackle this, he told CNBC.

Another way in which the government plans to reduce its debt is by changing the tax system, putting it all online, thereby decreasing manpower and the likelihood of problems like tax fraud.

The government structure will also change drastically under the new leadership, as part of Papandreou's cost-cutting plans include reducing Greece's five levels of government to three in coming months.

Contact Europe: Economy

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