The head of the International Monetary Fund has urged Greeks to pay their taxes, saying she is more concerned about sub-Saharan Africans in poverty than Greeks hit by the economic crisis.
Christine Lagarde told the Guardian newspaper in an interview published online on Friday, “As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”
The IMF managing director said Greeks should “help themselves collectively” by “all paying their tax”, adding that she thought “equally” about those deprived of public services by the crisis and those involved in tax avoidance.
Caught in a fifth straight year of recession, Greece is struggling to apply a tough austerity overhaul in return for EU-IMF loans, but has already made drastic cuts to public services.
On children affected by the cuts, Lagarde said their parents needed to take responsibility. “Parents have to pay their tax,” she was quoted as saying.
“I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education,” she added. “I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.”
Asked whether it was “payback time” for Greece and other debt-ridden eurozone economies, she responded, “That’s right”, the newspaper said.
Greece in 2010 committed itself to a reform programme in return for hundreds of billions of euros in bailout funds from the EU and the IMF to prevent a default. Many of the reforms are currently in limbo, however, as Greece awaits a new general election on June 17 after an inconclusive vote on May 6.
The zIMF, along with European leaders, has said it will not bend on tough conditions attached to its loans to Greece, with fears rising that the debt crisis could culminate in a Greek exit from the eurozone.
Perceived differences between France and Germany over how to solve Europe’s debt crisis are “largely overstated”, Lagarde said.
Asked whether there was no need to panic about a rift between Paris and Berlin, she told the UK newspaper: “I should think so... I think it’s largely overstated.”
Speculation has mounted over differences between French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel since the French leader swept to power in an election earlier this month.