Greece PM says na­tion is in ‘fi­nal stage’ of bailout talks

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DEREK GATOPOULOS AND GEIR MOUL­SON

Greece’s prime min­is­ter said his coun­try was in the “fi­nal stage” of talks for a new bailout, as his left- wing gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day re­jected the idea of ex­tend­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­yond this month.

The gov­ern­ment is rac­ing to com­plete talks with bailout lenders for a new pack­age of loans worth 85 bil­lion eu­ros ( US$ 92 bil­lion) ahead of an Aug. 20 dead­line, when it has to make a big debt re­pay­ment.

It is, how­ever, un­der mount­ing pres­sure from dis­senters in the rul­ing Syriza party to aban­don the process.

“We are at the fi­nal stage of com­plet­ing an agree­ment with the ( cred­i­tor) in­sti­tu­tions,” Greek leader Alexis Tsipras said Wed­nes­day.

His min­is­ters of fi­nance and econ­omy, Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos and Gior­gos Stathakis, were hold­ing held new meet­ings with bailout ne­go­tia­tors in Athens.

The ne­go­tia­tors are press­ing Greece to speed up a pro­gram to cut early re­tire­ment rights, im­pose stricter rules for tax ar­rears pay­ments, and al­low stronger cred­i­tor over­sight of a pri­va­ti­za­tion fund.

The Euro­pean Union’s ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion, one of the main ne­go­tia­tors, said the talks are pro­gress­ing in a sat­is­fac­tory way and be­lieves an agree­ment can reached by Aug. 20.

“This is an am­bi­tious yet pos­si­ble timetable if ev­ery­one sticks to the com­mit­ments,” the Com­mis­sion spokeswom- an, Mina An­dreeva, said.

Lead eu­ro­zone len­der Ger­many re­fused to say whether a deal was pos­si­ble within that time­frame. “A se­ries of points still have to be cleared up,” Ger­man Fi­nance Min­istry spokesman Marco Sem­mel­mann said.

Nikos Fylis, a par­lia­men­tary spokesman for the rul­ing Syriza party, in­sisted a pro­posal by res­cue lenders to pro­long the talks and give Athens an in­terim loan was “off the ta­ble.”

Greece is hop­ing to get a big first loan in­stall­ment, worth 25 bil­lion eu­ros, as soon as the bailout deal is ap­proved. It aims to then start ne­go­ti­a­tions be­fore the end of the year on how to ease the coun­try’s mas­sive debt bur­den.

Eu­ro­zone lenders strongly op­pose writ­ing off a por­tion of Greek bailout debt but are will­ing to dis­cuss bet­ter re­pay­ment terms.

With Greece widely ex­pected to slide back into re­ces­sion this year, debt re­pay­ment is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

The Na­tional In­sti­tute of Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search, a re­spected Lon­don- based think- tank said Wed­nes­day that Greece would need to write off at least 95 bil­lion eu­ros, or 55 per­cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, to make the na­tional debt sus­tain­able.

Apart from pay­ment dead­lines, Greece is try­ing to find a way to ease the pain on banks and mar­kets from the lim­its on money with­drawals and trans­fers that the gov­ern­ment im­posed in late June to avoid a bank­ing col­lapse.

Shares on the Athens Stock Ex­change fell for a third straight day since open­ing Mon­day af­ter a five- week clo­sure. The main in­dex was 3.3 per­cent lower in af­ter­noon trad­ing.

Tsipras is mean­while fac­ing a grow­ing chal­lenge from within his Syriza party, where dis­senters have vowed to op­pose a third bailout.

The re­volt could trig­ger an early gen­eral elec­tion in the fall, less than a year into Tsipras’ man­date.

In Athens, a Com­mu­nist- backed la­bor union held a peace­ful protest against the gov­ern­ment’s new bud­get aus­ter­ity mea­sures. Farm­ing as­so­ci­a­tions in north­ern Greece are plan­ning protests next week.

AP

Sup­port­ers of the Com­mu­nist-af­fil­i­ated PAME la­bor union take part in an anti-aus­ter­ity rally out­side the La­bor Min­istry in Athens on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 5.

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