BUSINESS

Ahead of Eurogroup, Dijsselbloem says troika review in Greece taking too long

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has called on Greece to speed up the current troika review of its adjustment program ahead of a Eurogroup meeting Brussels on Monday.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was due to brief his eurozone counterparts on where things stand with regards to the outstanding issues that need to be settled before the review can be wrapped up and more bailout money can be released.

The Dutch finance minister indicated that he would like the process, which began in September, to speed up.

“The current review is taking too long,” Dijsselbloem said in response to a question from Kathimerini’s Brussels correspondent Eleni Varvitsioti.

“I think its in the joint interest of us and the Greek government to finalize it as soon as possible but I’m going to hear what the last issues are and what progress we can make.”

Stournaras is likely to come under pressure at the Eurogroup meeting as the current review of Greece’s adjustment program remains open. Greece’s lenders last week made it known that they want Athens to adopt the OECD’s proposals before the review can be completed.

After an 11-month study, the OECD identified in November 555 regulatory restrictions which it says undermine competition. The Paris-based organization made 329 recommendations on legal provisions that should be amended or repealed.

The OECD estimates the benefit to the Greek economy would be around 5.2 billion euros, or roughly 2.5 percent of gross domestic product, as a result of “increased purchasing power for consumers and efficiency gains for companies.”

The government is likely to agree to adopt around 80 percent of the OECD’s proposals.

However, there are also two key fiscal issues that remain unresolved. One concerns the fiscal gap for 2014 and whether a Council of State ruling reversing wage cuts in the armed forces and emergency services means that the government has to adopt new measures this year.

Then, there is the matter of the fiscal gap for 2015. The government estimates this to be around 1 billion euros, whereas the troika believes it will be two to three times this figure.

Troika officials are expected to return to Athens towards the end of this week or the beginning of next week. The aim is to achieve a staff level agreement in time for the Eurogroup which is due to take place on February 17.

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