NEWS

Coalition plays down loan delay

The coalition attempted on Friday to play down concerns about when Greece will receive its next bailout installment ahead of a vote on Sunday night on the 2013 national budget.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said there was no doubt that Greece would receive its 31.5-billion-euro tranche soon. ?We are in discussions with the Eurogroup and there is no reason to worry about the disbursement of the loan because Greece is doing what it needs to and Europe is doing what it needs to,? he told journalists.

Stournaras added that Athens expects ?a political statement? from eurozone finance ministers on Monday confirming that Greece will receive the money.

One reason for the government wanting to receive confirmation that the tranche will be forthcoming is that on Tuesday it will have to issue short-term debt to cover 5 billion euros in T-bills which mature on November 16.

In Brussels, a senior European official told journalists there was no way Greece?s lenders would allow Athens to default but that a number of issues needed to be resolved before the loan disbursement could be agreed.

?The decisions that European governments are being asked to make are not straightforward,? he said on condition of anonymity. The official said eurozone ministers would have to study the troika?s report on the Greek program, which they are likely to receive on Monday, and make decisions on the country?s financing gap as well as its debt sustainability. Some eurozone parliaments will have to approve these decisions.

Greece hopes that it will have a positive verdict on its loan tranche before the end of the month. A new Eurogroup meeting in December could give the green light for two further installments, of 5 and 7 billion, to be released.

However, the delay prompted SYRIZA to accuse the government of having been ?slapped in the face? by its lenders. ?They fooled the Greek people, telling them the austerity package had to be urgently voted through or we would not get the installment on Monday,? said leftist MP Dimitris Papadimoulis.

Despite only gaining 153 votes in Wednesday?s vote on structural and fiscal measures, the government is expected to sail through the budget ballot with up to 167 votes.

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