Gov’t aims to curb measures, secure loans, allow tax relief

Government officials put the finishing touches over the weekend on their strategy for crucial talks with the troika that are to begin in Paris on Tuesday.

The Greek delegation, which will be led by Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, has three main goals going in to those talks, Kathimerini understands. A key aim is to cut a list of some 600 outstanding measures – mostly technical adjustments – that Athens has pledged to creditors. Secondly, Greek officials aim to convince the International Monetary Fund to approve the release of the next 3.5-billion-euro tranche of loan funding without first awaiting the outcome of the European Central Bank stress tests on banks which are due in the fall. Finally, the government is to argue that Greece will have no fiscal gap next year and that its budget will also allow for tax relief. Officials are eyeing a 50 percent reduction to a solidarity tax on income and 20 percent off a consumption tax on heating oil.

The agenda for the Paris talks is heavy. Apart from sounding out creditors on the prospects of tax relief, which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is keen to herald at the Thessaloniki International Fair next weekend, government officials plan to broach the thorny issue of nonperforming loans at Greek banks, proposing less onerous terms for borrowers struggling with payments, and resisting possible calls for more layoffs in the state sector.

Other contentious issues expected to be discussed are restrictions to the powers, and funding, of labor unions and the boosting of employers’ rights to mass layoffs and lockouts.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hardouvelis said reforms could proceed more efficiently with the troika “in the background.” He added that it was in the interest of creditors to allow the Greek economy to grow and not impose “new onerous targets” so Athens can better service its debt.

Samaras, for his part, continued to push the Greek case in his contacts with European officials over the weekend including during talks with incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Saturday.