, BERLIN, Jan 31 – Greece will pay back the billions of euros of European aid it has received to fight its debt crisis, the head of the country’s central bank told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
“I understand the concern of European taxpayers,” Governor of the Bank of Greece George Provopoulos, said in Thursday’s edition of the daily newspaper.
“But I can tell you one thing: this time, the government will get results. The country is transforming itself. The Europeans will get their money back.”
“The Greeks, including the politicians, have understood one thing: this time around it’s the last chance for Greece,” he added.
Provopoulos acknowledged that the application of structural reforms required by the country’s international creditors had in the past not been adequate.
“That was a big mistake,” he said.
He also conceded that if “tax evasion is a problem in every country, it is particularly prevalent in Greece”.
But he insisted that confidence was returning to the country, for while 87 billion euros ($118 bn) had been withdrawn from Greek bank accounts since 2010, 15 billion euros had been put back in over the past seven months.
The EU and IMF have committed a total of 240 billion euros ($320 bn) in rescue loans to Greece since 2010. In return they insisted on a tough austerity programme to get the country’s finance in order.
So far, however, Greece has failed to deliver, particularly when it has come to cutting the public deficit.
The coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced last week that Greece had narrowed its public deficit to 8.1 percent in 2012, marking a rare improvement over targets pledged to its EU-IMF creditors.
The hardship caused by the swingeing public sector cuts has caused a wave of sometimes violent protests and strikes.
The harsh economic climate has also seen the rise of the far-right in the country with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn winning 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in last year’s elections.
International human rights groups have warned of a surge in xenophobic attacks on migrants in Greece.