NEWS

Greek deputies to vote on loose ends of bailout pogram for funds

RENEE MALTEZOU & LEFTERIS PAPADIMAS

Finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos addressing the House on Thursday.

TAGS: Economy, Politics

Greek lawmakers will vote Thursday on a set of extra measures demanded by the country's international lenders before Athens can qualify for rescue funds the country needs to pay off debts and state arrears.

Greece's government and its creditors - the European Union and the International Monetary Fund - wrapped up most of the reforms needed for the release of bailout cash last week. Some loose ends need to be tied up, however, before Greece can get a tranche of 7.5 billion euros ($8.40 billion).

“Today, we are concluding the first part of our government's narrative, which was the bank recapitalization, the conclusion of the first review and reaching a debt deal,” Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said before the vote.

After a week of talks, mainly caused by Greek resistance to the unpopular reforms, some of the pending issues have been postponed to September. Those are related to a broader pension reform already enacted by Greece's parliament.

Thursday's vote takes in the rest. They include phasing out an income-based benefit for pensioners by 2020 and selling a minority stake in the power-grid operator ADMIE by the end of October.

Compromises have already been reached on the sale of non-performing loans guaranteed by the state and on a proposal to limit seniority-based wages for police and the coast guard - as Greece struggles with Europe's worst migrant crisis in decades.

The government, which has a narrow majority of 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, hopes the approval of the measures will quell concerns about the country's fiscal progress, open the way for debt relief and help its banks regain access to cheap borrowing from the European Central Bank.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was scheduled to hold a cabinet meeting later Thursday to discuss the negotiations and the government's priorities.

“He is expected to take stock of the negotiations, explain that the country is now turning a page and give the ministers directions over the government's growth strategy,” a government official told Reuters.

Cash-strapped Greek banks, meanwhile, were waiting for a meeting of the European Central Bank's decision-making body, also on Thursday. They have been relying on expensive ECB emergency funding, and they were hoping the central bank would resume accepting Greek government debt as collateral.

But sources close to the matter told Reuters the ECB was unlikely to restore their access to cheap funding, after the delays in talks between the Greek government and its creditors . 

[Reuters] 

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