Athens happy with delay to talks with the troika

Stournaras admits that postponing negotiations will enable December data to be factored in

Greece’s fiscal progress will probably not be on the agenda of the next Eurogroup on January 27, as the government would rather delay talks with its creditors in order to have what it sees as favorable December 2013 data factored in too.

With the date of the return of the troika of chief inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund still pending, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stated on Monday that the delay is due to the difficulty of the negotiations and the lack of agreement.

Speaking on Skai TV on Monday night, the minister admitted that it would be very hard to strike a deal by January 27, and said, “We want a delay in the negotiations because we want to incorporate the December data that will illustrate a further improvement in the economy.”

The government is now eyeing an agreement with its creditors by the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in February instead, expecting a clean bill that would pave the way for the release of all the bailout installments left up to the end of the program in June.

That is also said to be the political target of Greece’s eurozone peers, as they wish to give the government some room to breathe ahead of the European Parliament elections in May. They will therefore opt for an agreement on specific prior actions whose implementation will trigger the disbursement of tranches (or parts thereof) automatically, without any more troika visits to Athens.

Stournaras told Skai that the government is “fighting to secure easier terms and we have achieved it in cases such as the VAT in food services. There is no chance the VAT will revert to 23 percent, for at least one year, and we want to convince [the creditors] to retain it for the next few years, too. I believe the fiscal loss will be minimal, no more than 100 million euros [per annum].”

He added that “we have achieved 80 percent of our targets, especially on the fiscal front, but we will miss them if we lower our taxes.”

He also dismissed talk of his appointment as the next governor of the Bank of Greece, saying he is not concerned about scenarios.