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IMF head: Greeks should pay their taxes

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The head of the International Monetary Fund has said Greeks should "help themselves collectively" to lift their country out of the debt crisis.

In an interview with the UK-based Guardian newspaper, Christine Lagarde, said she was more concerned about sub-Saharan Africans in poverty than Greeks hit by the economic crisis.

She urged Greeks to pay their taxes, adding that she thought "equally" about those deprived of public services by the crisis and those involved in tax avoidance.

"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," Lagarde said.

Tax evasion is considered a major issue in Greece, with the government earlier this year publishing a list of more than 4,000 wealthy individuals it said owed the state more than $14bn.

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 said.

"I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens."

Eurozone exit?

Greece, in its fifth year in recession, has been struggling to apply tough austerity measures in return for EU-IMF bailout packages.

It accepted the first tranche of the bailout in 2010 in order to prevent itself from going bankrupt.

Since then, the country has witnessed widespread protests in the wake of punishing spending cuts to public services, including pension and minimum wages.

Asked whether it was "payback time" for Greece and other debt-ridden eurozone economies, she responded, "That's right", the newspaper said.

The eurozone member is on the verge of getting kicked out of the elite club amid political uncertainty and the emergence of political parties opposed to the bailout packages.

The Radical Left Coalition, Syriza, which has promised to reject the terms of the bailout, is favourite to win the June 17 general elections after an inconclusive vote on May 6.

Meanwhile, the IMF and European leaders have maintained that they will not bend on tough conditions attached to its loans to Greece.


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