Omnibus bill set to clear the air in talks with troika

Draft law will include OECD proposals By Sotiris Nikas

The government intends to prepare an omnibus bill that will include all the prior actions required for the disbursement of outstanding bailout installments within March.

The chief inspectors of the country’s creditors – known as the troika – are not expected in Athens before the end of next week, with the most likely date for their arrival being February 10. Even that date may not prove correct, though, as the troika might come back to Greece after the February 17 Eurogroup meeting unless the government shows some tangible progress on the obligations it has undertaken.

The Finance Ministry aspires to strike a political agreement in next month’s Eurogroup concerning the completion of negotiations that remain open since September. Ministry officials say that the submission of an omnibus bill must follow, allowing for the installment to come in March – it will likely be a double tranche, totalling 11 billion euros. What this means in practical terms is that the bill must become law by March 10, when the Eurogroup holds its next meeting.

In that omnibus bill the government intends to incorporate most of the proposals by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for improving competition conditions in the Greek economy, after the troika increased the pressure on Athens to implement the so-called OECD “toolkit” so that talks can proceed. Both ministry and troika officials acknowledge that if the organization’s proposals are implemented an agreement on other issues would be “much easier” for the completion of the current monitoring process.

Troika sources say they have not yet received a response from the government on what it intends to do regarding a demand by creditors for the majority of the OECD’s proposals to be adopted – the very delay that keeps pushing back the arrival of the troika in Athens.

The other issues on which an agreement could be reached faster after the omnibus bill is passed concern the fiscal gaps of 2014 and 2015 and the reduction of the social security contribution by employers. Athens and the troika are in disagreement about the fiscal gap of 2015, as the government estimates it at no more than 1 billion euros, while the lenders put it between 2 and 3 billion euros.