(Updates with protests from the first paragraph.)
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund is concerned about demonstrations in Greece as protesters clashed with police in Athens, an IMF spokesman said.
“We’re watching it closely,” Gerry Rice, the Fund’s acting director for external relations, told reporters in Washington today. “And with concern. We understand that this is a very difficult time for the people of Greece, and times of crisis are always difficult, especially if people perceive that changes that need to be made are unfair.”
Tear gas was fired in central Athens as protesters clashed with police for a second day outside the parliament building where lawmakers debated an austerity bill, the second in four months. Prime Minister George Papandreou convened a meeting of his Cabinet as he prepared to test his party’s unity with a final vote on the legislation later today.
Rice said the IMF is working “very closely” with the European Commission and European Central Bank on Greece and there is “no divergence” among the three.
Greece’s debt ratio, which exceeded 140 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2010, will remain “at very high levels for many years,” leaving it “vulnerable to adverse shocks,” according to a draft report by the IMF, EC and ECB, a group known as the troika.
“Greek debt dynamics remain extremely worrying,” the troika said. “If fiscal consolidation and privatization targets are respected, and growth responds to structural reforms, the debt ratio may start declining from 2013 onwards.”
--With assistance from Paul Tugwell, Maria Petrakis and Tom Stoukas in Athens. Editors: Paul Badertscher, Carlos Torres
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