New cab­i­net faces gru­el­ing month ahead

Talks loom on bud­get, la­bor laws, sell­offs

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

With his new cab­i­net in place, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras is this week ex­pected to urge his min­is­ters to move swiftly for­ward with eco­nomic re­forms so that Greece and its Euro­pean part­ners can launch talks on debt re­lief and he can sig­nal that the coun­try is turn­ing the cor­ner.

The cab­i­net was sworn in over the week­end with a few new faces, to in­di­cate a re­vamp, and the sidelin­ing of some min­is­ters that had ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to pri­va­ti­za­tions de­manded by Greece’s cred­i­tors.

In com­ments on Satur­day, Tsipras sought to give an up­beat mes­sage, say­ing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion could give “the nec­es­sary push, so we can cover the last cru­cial me­ters of a marathon” and that growth was on the hori­zon.

The pres­sure is mount­ing for the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment re­forms linked to the coun­try’s third bailout be­fore the end of the year. Au­thor­i­ties aim to sign off on 93 prior ac­tions by De­cem­ber 5, the last sched­uled meet­ing of eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters of the year. That would mean en­forc­ing three or four mea­sures a day.

In ad­di­tion, the gov­ern­ment must fi­nal­ize the na­tional bud­get for next year and the mid-term pro­gram for 2017-2020. A key prob­lem is that Greece’s cred­i­tors an­tic­i­pate a bud­get gap for next year as they are not con­vinced au­thor­i­ties can find the rev­enues to fi­nance so­cial wel­fare ben­e­fits they have her­alded for 2017.

Other big chal­lenges Tsipras’s new min­is­ters face when rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors re­turn to Athens next week are talks about changes to la­bor laws and pri­va­ti­za­tions. Tsipras is keen to avoid mak­ing con­ces­sions on work­ers’ rights as for­eign au­di­tors are push­ing for an eas­ing of leg­is­la­tion to make mass fir­ings eas­ier and strikes harder. Pri­va­ti­za­tions are ex­pected to be less of a mine­field now that Gior­gos Stathakis and Dim­itris Pa­padim­itriou, both low-key of­fi­cials, have as­sumed the key posts of en­ergy min­is­ter and econ­omy min­is­ter re­spec­tively.

There are also hopes for Effie Acht­sioglou, the 31-year-old aide to Gior­gos Ka­trouga­los who re­placed him as La­bor and So­cial In­surance Min­is­ter and is said to have a good re­la­tion­ship with for­eign au­di­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Greece’s cred­i­tors are pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity that the bailout re­view could run into Jan­uary or even Fe­bru­ary. But Greek of­fi­cials are keen to avoid such an even­tu­al­ity, fear­ing that cred­i­tors could in­sist on ad­di­tional ac­tions be­fore talks on debt re­lief can be­gin.

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los over­see the swear­ing in of the new cab­i­net on Satur­day. The new ad­min­is­tra­tion has some new, and younger, faces while a few of­fi­cials switched min­istries.

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