NEWS

Civil service sackings among outstanding issues as troika returns to Greece for review

Troika experts are due to begin their latest review of the Greek fiscal adjustment program on Tuesday, with the issue of firings in the civil service likely to dominate the agenda over the next few weeks.

Kathimerini understands that the Greek government will seek more time from its lenders to decide which civil servants it will sack as a result of merging and shutting down dozens of public organizations. Although Athens is committed to the agreed target of sacking 4,000 public sector workers by the end of the year, it wants to avoid stirring up union opposition during what is expected to be a prosperous summer for the tourism sector.

Today, the Administrative Reform Ministry will have to hand over to the troika details of the process to sack civil servants accused and then convicted of offenses such as breach of faith, accepting bribes and taking leave without permission. It is estimated that hundreds of these public servants will be among the 15,000 that have to be fired by next year.

Kathimerini understands that the figures so far show that between July 2012 and March this year, only 99 civil servants have been fired. However, the data also show that inspections for corruption and other offenses in the public sector have been stepped up.

Since last year, criminal charges have been leveled against 500 civil servants. This is almost equal to the number of bureaucrats that were charged between 2007 and 2011, when 540 were ordered to face disciplinary panels. Another 2,127 cases are currently being heard.

Among the other issues to be addressed by Greece and the troika inspection teams are tax collection, value-added tax in the food service sector and the privatization program.

The issue of reducing the 23 percent VAT rate in catering was brought up on Monday in a meeting between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and European Commissioner for Taxation Algirdas Semeta when the pair met in Athens. The official from Brussels was cautious on the issue, as the troika has been since Athens raised it earlier this year.

Another matter to be discussed is how large the fiscal gap for 2015 and 2016 is likely to be. The troika estimates it will reach 4 billion euros, whereas the Finance Ministry puts the figure at 2.7 billion.

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