NEWS

Gov’t, creditors edge close to a deal on measures

TAGS: Finance, Politics

Government officials and foreign auditors remained locked in talks on Monday night aimed at tying up a deal that will conclude a pending bailout review by approving further cuts to pensions, tax increases, state sell-offs and market liberalization.

The agreement foresees further reductions of around 22 percent to pensions as well as a lowering of the tax-free threshold in 2020 and fewer restrictions on employers who want to conduct mass dismissals.

The deal also sets out a series of countermeasures, chiefly tax reductions and social benefits, but authorities will not be able to enforce them unless it meets fiscal targets in 2019.

Sources close to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras indicated on Monday that a deal was close.

They said European officials who Tsipras met with on Saturday in Brussels for a summit about Brexit expressed their support for a swift conclusion to bailout talks. “I don’t think we’ll have big problems,” one source said. “The major issues are already resolved and soon the details will be resolved too.”

Tsipras himself, in his May Day message, defended his government’s performance in tough talks with foreign envoys, saying it had “waged the most difficult battle in negotiations: that for the reinstatement of collective wage bargaining and normality in labor.”

“After the conclusion of the second review, which brings us closer to exiting the memorandums, our strategic goal... is fair growth.” The next major goal, he said, would be “healing the social wounds of the crisis.”

The government remains focused on getting a draft bill with the new reforms to Parliament as soon as possible, with sources indicating Monday that a bill with around 50 prior actions will probably go to a vote in the House on May 18, ahead of a Eurogroup summit on May 22, when officials hope to conclude a pending bailout review.

Labor unions have called a general strike against the new austerity measures for May 17. On Monday they organized rallies for Labor Day that drew thousands of people out onto the streets.

Former energy minister Panayiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the far-left Popular Unity party, which is not in Parliament, on Monday led a crowd of supporters to the Hilton Hotel, where government and foreign officials were holding talks. “The country is being run from the Hilton,” Lafazanis declared.

“At this moment the neocolonial quartet [of bailout monitors] is imposing, in the manner of a coup, illegally and unconstitutionally, on a surrendered and treacherous government, a fourth and disastrous memorandum,” he said.

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