Eurogroup head optimistic about Greece despite strike

The head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said Tuesday he was "very optimistic" that Greece would be able to carry out austerity reforms despite a 48-hour strike called by enraged workers.

While admitting that the financial belt-tightening moves initiated by Athens were unpopular, Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also the prime minister of Luxembourg, said in a lecture in Singapore that the Greeks had no choice.

"Our Greek friends don't have different options or another choice. They have to do it," Juncker said.

"My impression is that the reforms which are undertaken in Greece are increasingly better understood by the Greek citizens, so I'm very optimistic when it comes to Greece," he added.

"I think that the government is now taking seriously on its shoulders the reform programme which should have been implemented decades and years ago."

Greek lawmakers on Monday introduced an austerity bill which proposes 18.5 billion euros ($23.6 billion) in new spending cuts and other reforms by 2016 as the country heads for its sixth year in recession.

Implementing the austerity plan is a condition for Greece to qualify for a 31.5-billion-euro tranche of bailout funds from its troika of creditors -- the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Without it, Greece risks bankruptcy in mid-November.

Greeks including judges, lawyers and transport workers incensed at the bill stopped work for two days from Tuesday, paralysing traffic in Athens while publicly-run museums, archaeological sites and post offices were shut.

The strike also led to the cancellation or rescheduling of many flights as traffic controllers staged a three-hour work stoppage, while ferry services were crippled.

Earlier Tuesday Greece raised 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 bn) in a six-month treasury bill sale at a slightly reduced rate of 4.41 percent, its public debt management agency said.

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