Athens happy with talks de­lay

Stournaras ad­mits that post­pon­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the troika will en­able De­cem­ber data to be fac­tored in

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Greece’s fis­cal pro­gress­will prob­a­bly not be on the agenda of the next Eurogroup on Jan­uary 27, as the gov­ern­ment would rather de­lay talks with its cred­i­tors in or­der to have what it sees as fa­vor­able De­cem­ber 2013 data fac­tored in too.

With the date of the re­turn of the troika of chief in­spec­tors from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund still pend­ing, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Yan­nis Stournaras stated yes­ter­day that the de­lay is due to the dif­fi­culty of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and the lack of agree­ment.

Speak­ing on Skai TV last night, the min­is­ter ad­mit­ted that it would be very hard to strike a deal by Jan­uary 27, and said, “We want a de­lay in the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause we want to in­cor­po­rate the De­cem­ber data that will il­lus­trate a fur­ther im­prove­ment in the econ­omy.”

The gov­ern­ment is now eye­ing an agree­ment with its cred­i­tors by the Eurogroup meet­ing of eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters in Fe­bru­ary in­stead, ex­pect­ing a clean bill that would pave the way for the re­lease of all the bailout in­stall­ments left up to the end of the pro­gram in June.

That is also said to be the po­lit­i­cal tar­get of Greece’s eu­ro­zone peers, as they wish to give the gov­ern­ment some room to breathe ahead of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May. They will there­fore opt for an agree­ment on spe­cific prior ac­tions whose im­ple­men­ta­tion will trig­ger the dis­burse­ment of tranches (or parts thereof) au­to­mat­i­cally, with­out any more troika vis­its to Athens.

Stournaras told Skai that the gov­ern­ment is “fight­ing to se­cure eas­ier terms and we have achieved it in cases such as the VAT in food ser­vices. There is no chance the VAT will re­vert to 23 per­cent, for at least one year, and we want to con­vince [the cred­i­tors] to re­tain it for the next few years, too. I be­lieve the fis­cal loss will be min­i­mal, no more than 100 mil­lion eu­ros [per an­num].”

He added that “we have achieved 80 per­cent of our tar­gets, es­pe­cially on the fis­cal front, but we will miss them if we lower our taxes.” He also dis­missed talk of his ap­point­ment as the next gov­er­nor of the Bank of Greece, say­ing he is not con­cerned about sce­nar­ios.

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