Greece's new finance minister, Vassilis Rapanos, has resigned from the post just days after his appointment, the prime minister's office confirmed Monday.
The office of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a text message to various news agencies that the resignation of Rapanos, former National Bank Chairman, has been accepted by the new premier.
Although no reason was given by the PM's office for Rapanos' resignation, it is understood that Rapanos has been in hospital with stomach pains since last Friday. He is known to have a history of ill-health. Rapanos had replaced Giorgos Zanias as the finance minister in Samaras' new cabinet, which was announced last Thursday.
Incidentally, Samaras himself will miss this week's EU summit as he is currently recovering from eye surgery. The 61-year-old U.S. educated economist was sworn in as Greece's Prime Minister last Wednesday.
Samaras is the leader of Greece's New Democracy Party, which secured the most number of seats in the recent parliamentary elections. His inauguration ended weeks of political uncertainty in the EU nation.
Earlier, the New Democracy Party managed to forge a coalition with the socialist PASOK and the smaller Democratic Left. The three-party conservative-socialist-leftist coalition gives the new government a strong parliamentary majority of 179 seats, which will be crucial for its proper functioning. Moreover, Greece needed to have a new government in place to avail the next installment of its bailout loan.
Greece had agreed in March to implement further austerity programs demanded in exchange for a joint 130 billion euro bailout from the EU, the ECB and the IMF. In addition, the country had earlier availed a joint EU-IMF 110-billion-euro rescue loan in May 2010, of which several tranches have been handed out to Athens.
In return for the two loans, Greece had agreed to implement painful and hugely unpopular austerity measures, including spending cut, slashing of public sector jobs, pension reforms, privatization of loss-making state-owned companies as well as increasing existing taxes and imposing new ones.
Greece risked exiting the eurozone if an anti-bailout government emerged from the elections. Moreover, eurozone nations have already warned that Greece would get further disbursements of the bailout loan only if it manages to put a stable government in place and continues to implement austerity measures agreed under the bailout deal.
The new Greek government is expected to ease the country's financial crisis and strengthen its shaky position in the eurozone. The greatest challenge for Rapanos' successor will be to persuade other eurozone nations to renegotiate the existing bailout deal, as promised by three parties in the new ruling coalition.
by RTT Staff Writer
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