BUSINESS

Athens left to its own fiscal devices

Berlin suggests that the next tranche of bailout money will not have to come in June By Prokopis Hatzinikolaou and Sotiris Nikas

Berlin signaled on Friday that the eurozone is unlikely to send the next tranche of bailout money to Greece before the political landscape becomes clearer in Athens, especially in terms of the application of measures agreed with the country?s international creditors. At the same time the caretaker government is putting into action plans to bolster the collection of tax revenues.

?As far as I am aware, there is no current need for external financing up until beyond the first half of the year,? German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus told a press conference in Berlin, adding that a delay of a few weeks would be ?unproblematic.?

The next Greek bond to mature is payable on August 20 to the European Central Bank and amounts to 3.1 billion euros. It seems, however, that the eurozone has closely examined the Greek state?s cash flow and ensured that it will have enough funds to manage without the June installment -- the eurozone was scheduled to lend Greece 2.6 billion euros.

Reports yesterday suggested revenues in May are lagging by 20 to 30 percent, which, factoring in the likely delay of the June tranche, means the Finance Ministry must urgently find extra public revenues as soon as possible.

Minister Giorgos Zannias called an extraordinary meeting on Friday with his general secretaries and decided to adopt three measures to boost revenues. These are an increase in checks to identify corporations and self-employed people who do not pay value-added tax, the delivery of notices for the payment of overdue debts to the state, and the issue of guidelines for working groups monitoring taxpayers with sizable wealth and real estate.

On Monday Zannias will begin a round of meetings with the heads of the country?s biggest tax offices, which together cash in about 80 percent of revenues, in a bid to draft a plan for a revenues rebound.

The minister is also particularly worried by the considerable drop in revenues from special consumption taxes, which in the January-April period have declined by 1.7 billion euros on an annual basis.

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