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The new Greek government plans to end a standoff with its creditors by swapping its outstanding debt for growth-linked bonds, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in London on Monday during a visit to reassure private investors that he was not seeking a showdown with Brussels over a new debt agreement. The proposals, which include a pledge to reform the economy, contrast sharply with calls last week to ditch the tough austerity measures imposed under the existing bailout.
Varoufakis called his plan a “menu of debt swaps” that meant Athens would no longer call for a write-off of Greece’s 315 bln euros of foreign debt, the Financial Times reported.
The menu would include two types of new bonds: one indexed to nominal economic growth, and one he called “perpetual bonds” to replace ECB-owned Greek bonds.
“We are putting together a combination of a primary budget surplus, and a reform agenda,” Varoufakis told the newspaper.
“I’ll say, ‘Help us to reform our country and give us some fiscal space to do this, otherwise we shall continue to suffocate and become a deformed rather than a reformed Greece’.”
It was not clear whether the debt swap proposals would be accepted by European paymaster Germany, which opposes softening the terms, with its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble saying earlier that Berlin would not accept any unilateral changes to Greece’s debt programme.
Athens also planned to target wealthy taxevaders and post primary budget surpluses of 1 to 1.5% of gross domestic product, Varoufakis told the FT, even if it meant his party, Syriza, could not fulfill all the spending promises on which it was elected.
In a statement released by the Finance Ministry in Athens on Tuesday, Varoufakis said the government’s aim was to pull the country out of “debt serfdom.”
Varoufakis, an outspoken economist who has likened EU austerity policies to “waterboarding”, began his European tour over the weekend in Paris, where the centreleft government is thought to be more sympathetic than others to the case for relaxing lending conditions.
He then moved to London
meet investors whose confidence is crucial, saying he was not in “a kind of Wild West showdown” with the EU, but aimed to strike a mutually beneficial deal to minimise the cost of the crisis for the average European.
Varoufakis met about 100 banks and financial institutions in London. An organiser said one of the meetings had to be moved from an upmarket London members’ club, because Varoufakis wouldn’t wear a tie.