Bid to bring back troika

Gov’t replies to queries, holds vote in Parl’t to re­voke ex­ten­sion of pay­ment plan

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment is do­ing its best to con­vince the troika to re­turn to Athens and re­sume its lat­est re­view, with of­fi­cials hav­ing sent in­spec­tors re­sponses to a 19-point to-do list and with a vote due in Par­lia­ment to­day on a re­vised ver­sion of a bill fa­cil­i­tat­ing debtors.

Fol­low­ing ob­jec­tions by the troika to plans to ex­tend a pay­ment scheme fore­see­ing up to 100 in­stall­ments for debtors, the gov­ern­ment has drafted a new bill ex­empt­ing from the scheme all debts that ex­pired after Oc­to­ber 1. Prac­ti­cally, this means the four fi­nal in­stall­ments of a uni­fied prop­erty tax and the fi­nal tranches of in­come tax dues can­not be in­cluded in the scheme. The vote on the new bill had been slated for next Tues­day but, in a bid to show the troika it is ad­dress­ing their con­cerns, Greek of­fi­cials brought it for­ward. The troika is said to have ob­jected to the ex­ten­sion of the pay­ment scheme amid fears that it would in­crease Greece’s fis­cal gap for next year by around 1 bil­lion euros.

The con­ces­sion by the gov­ern­ment was the fo­cus of angry de­bate in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, with many blam­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gikas Har­dou­velis for the gaffe and even coali­tion MPs de­scrib­ing it as a pub­lic re­la­tions dis­as­ter.

The pay­ment plan is one of sev­eral bones of con­tention. Au­thor­i­ties have re­sponded to the troika’s to-do list and are await­ing news. Athens is said to be un­will­ing to dis­cuss any changes to re­tire­ment ages or fur­ther cuts to pen­sions but is open to re­view­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of the pen­sion sys­tem next year. Of­fi­cials also op­pose changes that would make it eas­ier for em­ploy­ers to carry out mass lay­offs in the pri­vate sec­tor and are ex­pected to press for the pro­posed re­vi­sion of fa­vor­able value-added tax rates for the is­lands to be post­poned un­til next year. Other is­sues in­clud­ing a uni­fied wage struc­ture for civil ser­vants and a re­stric­tion of trade union pow­ers re­main on the ta­ble.

It was un­clear yes­ter­day when the troika would re­turn to Athens, with of­fi­cials in Brussels and Wash­ing­ton say­ing a date had yet to be finalized. Athens is keen for the re­view to end be­fore a sum­mit of eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters on De­cem­ber 8 when Greece’s post-bailout prospects are to be con­sid­ered.

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