Prospective Greek PM Is Widely Respected Economist

Posted November 8th, 2011 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Lucas Papademos, the man slated to become Greece's interim prime minister, is a widely respected economist who has spent his life moving easily among prominent teaching positions at U.S. universities and high-level financial jobs in Europe.

The 64-year-old Mr. Papademos has never sought electoral office. But news accounts in Greece say he will replace Greek socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou as head of a short-term coalition government that might last only until Greece holds a new national election, now planned for February.

Mr. Papandreou has promised to step down as the Greek leader. Over the last few days he has been negotiating with opposition leader Antonis Samaras over the shape of a caretaker government. It will be charged with carrying out the Athens government's unpopular austerity measures that the country's international creditors have demanded in exchange for more financial aid.

Mr. Papademos has degrees in physics, electrical engineering and economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. He is viewed as a technocrat and a non-partisan personality who can implement the Greek cutbacks while the country is still mired in a recession.

Some analysts say that he may prove to be a good, low-key fit for Greece just days after Mr. Papandreou angered European officials by his call for a referendum on the continent's debt-relief plan, after earlier agreeing to it. But late last week, Mr. Papandreou abandoned the referendum idea and started negotiations over the coalition government.

One analyst, Spyros Economides of the London School of Economics, said that a Papademos-led government would be good because “it will bring stability after the turmoil of the last few days.”

Mr. Papademos is said to be well-respected in European governmental circles, particularly in Germany and France, the two biggest economic powers in the 17-nation bloc that uses the euro currency. He has emphasized the need for governments to take control of their own debts, something that is likely to endear him to northern European leaders who have grown weary about dealing with Greece's debt crisis.

At various times, Mr. Papademos has worked as a senior economist at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in Boston and served as a Governor of the Bank of Greece. From 2002 to 2010 he was vice president of the European Central Bank. He has taught economics classes at Columbia University in New York and at the University of Athens.

As speculation mounted about him taking over as the Greek prime minister, he flew home from his current academic posting as a visiting professor of public policy at Harvard University in the U.S.

Harvard says he is scheduled to teach a class in the upcoming academic term called “The Global Financial Crisis: Policy Responses and Challenges.”