NEWS

Tsipras aiming for debt relief but slams IMF

TAGS: Politics, Economy

As negotiations between Greece and its quartet of lenders dragged on into Monday night, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras again took aim at the International Monetary Fund for its “mistaken policies,” saying it was “time to get serious as the livelihoods of millions of people were at stake.”

His remarks follow similar comments made by government officials last week to the effect that the IMF’s demands for more reforms were an obstacle to a deal.

Tsipras said the Washington-based Fund’s policies were damaging not only Greece but Europe as well.

The stakes, he said, are too high for the third bailout program not to succeed, otherwise not just Greece but Europe will suffer as well – at a time when it is faced with three parallel crises – financial, security and refugees.

“And right before a crucial referendum [in Britain], I think what is most important is stability and recovery and the prospects of its [Europe’s] people.”

But IMF chief Christine Lagarde was adamant on Monday that Greece must implement more reforms, even though she admitted that the Fund had made mistakes in its handling of the Greek crisis.

“Greece cannot just continuously tag along and expect that things will be sorted out. The Greek leaders will need to take more ownership of re-establishing their country,” she said.

The government is racing against time to complete the first review of its third bailout package by Easter so as to push for debt relief discussions at the IMF’s Spring Meeting in Washington this weekend.

According to the Greek government, last July’s bailout deal clearly stipulates that debt relief would be on the table for discussion once the first review was concluded.

“[The deal] is absolutely clear: It says that after the successful conclusion of the first review, the discussion on the debt will begin without terms and preconditions,” Tsipras said during a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa, who is on an official visit to Athens.

Debt relief is key a target of the government in order to avoid a further backlash from the electorate, and even from within the cabinet, when it begins to implement a fresh round of unpopular reforms. The negative reaction from certain ministers to Friday’s sale of a controlling stake in Piraeus port to China’s Cosco group is telling.

However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted on Monday that although the review would be completed “in the coming weeks,” it had nothing to with Greek demands for debt relief – which he called “debt forgiveness.”

”This solution has nothing to do with debt forgiveness but with the fact that Greece needs to do more to return to a competitive economy,” Schaeuble said.

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