Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, his New Democracy Conservatives still reeling from being beaten in the European Parliament elections by the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), made changes in his Cabinet on June 9, with the prime post of Finance Minister going to economist Gikas Hardouvelis.
He takes over from outgoing finance chief Yannis Stournaras who was reportedly being considered to take over the job as Governor of the Bank of Greece from Giorgos Provopoulos.
Hardouvelis will now take over talks with the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), including negotiating a hoped-for debt restructuring or write down of the 240 billion euros ($327 billion) Greece got in two bailouts.
Among other changes was the naming of former PASOK Socialist minister Andreas Loverdos – who had quit the party last year but just returned after saying he wouldn’t – as Education Minister.
PASOK is a partner in Samaras’ coalition government and he will keep the Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos as Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister.
Hardouvelis is a Professor of Finance & Economics at the University of Piraeus and Chief Economist & Director of Research at Eurobank, one of the state banks which received a huge injection of free state money in a recapitalization made necessary when a previous PASOK government – with Venizelos as Finance Minister – stiffed investors and banks with 74 percent losses to write down the country’s debt, which remains a staggering 315 billion euros ($430 billion).
Hardouvelis served as Director of the Economic Office of interim Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who served in a transition government from November, 2011, when then Premier and PASOK leader George Papandreou quit after relentless protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures demanded by the Troika, until the May, 2012 elections.
Those failed to elect a government and a second vote a month later was won by New Democracy, but without enough support to control Parliament, leading Samaras to bring in PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) as partners. DIMAR walked out last year in a dispute over the firing of public workers.
Hardouvelis holds a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Applied Mathematics from Harvard. He was Assistant Professor at Barnard College, Columbia University and a professor at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.