NEWS

Greece wants IMF explanations over Wikileaks report, says official

TAGS: Politics, Economy

Greece on Saturday demanded “explanations” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after Wikileaks said the lender sought a crisis “event” to push the indebted nation into concluding talks over its reforms.

IMF officials, in an internal discussion, allegedly voiced exasperation with Greece on its slow pace of reform, complaining Athens only moved decisively when faced with the peril of default, the website said.

An “event” was thus needed to drive the threat of default and get the Greeks to act, one official purportedly says.

The “event” is not described in the transcript placed on the Wikileaks website on Saturday. The official, assessing the state of the talks and the political calendar, predicts the European Union will stop discussions “for a month” before Britain's EU referendum on June 23.

The Greek government reacted strongly to the report, saying it wanted the IMF to clarify its position.

“The Greek government is demanding explanations from the IMF over whether seeking to create default conditions in Greece, shortly ahead of the referendum in Britain, is the fund's official position,” spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said in a statement.

The transcript purports to be that of a teleconference that took place on March 19.

Those taking part were Iva Petrova and Delia Velculescu, who have been representing the IMF in the negotiations with Greece, and Poul Thomsen, director of the Fund's European Department.

In it, Thomsen allegedly voices exasperation with the slow pace of talks on Greek reforms between Greece and its international lenders.

“In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when (the Greeks) were about to run out of money seriously and to default,” he reportedly says.

“I agree that we need an event, but I don't know what that will be,” Velculescu allegedly replies later in the conversation.

She also says that Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselboem is trying to “jump start” a discussion on debt but “not to generate an event.”

Mission chiefs from Greece’s international lenders - the EU, IMF, European Central Bank and European rescue fund - are due to resume on Monday a reforms audit that is part of the country's latest bailout.

However, the institutions are believed to be clashing over their assessment of the current state of the Greek economy, with the IMF worried that estimates drawn up by the EU and Greece do not add up.

Athens is under pressure to address the large number of non-performing loans burdening Greek banks and to push forward with a pension and tax overhaul resisted by farmers and white-collar staff.

The IMF has yet to officially sign onto Greece’s latest bailout and is making its participation conditional on the fact that no ground is yielded on the reforms needed by Athens, especially on pensions.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accused the IMF of employing “stalling tactics” and “arbitrary” estimates to delay a reforms review crucial to unlock further bailout cash.

[AFP]

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