IMF head Lagarde: Tax-shy Greeks 'must help themselves'

IMF head Christine Lagarde. Photo: May 2012 Ms Lagarde warned that the the IMF had no intention of softening the terms of Greece's bailout

IMF head Christine Lagarde has urged Greeks to pay taxes, saying she worries more about the plight of children in sub-Saharan Africa than the people of the crisis-hit European nation.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Ms Lagarde suggested it was payback time for Greece.

Greece has pledged to implement tough austerity measures in return for a multi-billion euro bailout.

But the deal is now under threat after inconclusive elections in May.

As Greece awaits a new poll in June, there are now fears that Athens may be forced to leave the eurozone.

This could potentially trigger a run on banks - not only in Greece but in other eurozone nations, experts warn.

Uncompromising stance

In the interview published on Friday, the International Monetary Fund head said: "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.

"I think they should also help themselves collectively," Ms Lagarde said.

She added: "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. I have them in my mind all the time.

"Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens."

And when asked if she was saying to the Greeks and other European nations that they had had a nice time and it was now payback time, Ms Lagarde responded: "That's right."

She also reiterated that the IMF had no intention of softening the terms of Greece's austerity package.

Greece has been in recession for five years, crippled by a debt mountain, high unemployment and labour unrest over the austerity measures.

Opinion polls now suggest that the leftist bloc Syriza, which came second in Greece's 6 May election, is likely to win the vote on 17 June.

It opposes the stringent conditions imposed on Greece under its massive EU-IMF bailout deal.

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