Deal re­mains elu­sive

Gov’t, len­ders edge closer to bailout pact but IMF de­mands cre­ate fresh ob­sta­cles

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

It re­mained un­clear late last night when drag­ging bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions might be com­pleted and in­spec­tors might re­turn to Athens as Greek and for­eign of­fi­cials re­mained at log­ger­heads over key is­sues in­clud­ing pen­sions and la­bor mar­ket re­forms.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund told Kathimerini yes­ter­day that en­voys would not re­turn to Greece un­til a deal is within sight.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, the key stick­ing points in talks – which ap­peared to have been all but wrapped up early this week – are calls by the IMF for fur­ther cuts to pen­sions. It seems that this de­mand was what scup­pered the deal-in-the-mak­ing, along with the Fund’s in­sis­tence that eco­nomic mea­sures slated for im­ple­men­ta­tion in 2020 be brought for­ward to 2019; there are con­cerns at the Fund that gen­eral elec­tions sched­uled to take place in Greece in 2019 could bring in a new govern­ment that may refuse to honor re­forms agreed to by the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On the other con­tentious is­sue of la­bor re­forms, the IMF is said to have shown some flex­i­bil­ity, in­di­cat­ing that the mat­ter can be shelved un­til agree­ment has been reached on all the other ar­eas.

What ap­pears to be the like­li­est sce­nario at this stage, sources sug­gested yes­ter­day, is that the frame­work for an agree­ment could be pre­sented at the next sched­uled Eurogroup meet­ing on April 7. This would al­low of­fi­cials to draft all the mea­sures that Greek MPs must leg­is­late by the next sched­uled Eurogroup on May 22 when the IMF is ex­pected to in­di­cate whether it will join Greece’s third in­ter­na­tional bailout.

So far, what the two sides have man­aged to agree on is to re­duce the tax-free thresh­old to 5,900 eu­ros from the cur­rent 8,636 eu­ros and to trim the pen­sions of some 900,000 re­tirees as Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos con­firmed in a meet­ing with MPs of In­de­pen­dent Greeks (ANEL) yes­ter­day.

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