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Troika deal is in sight after two sides bridge key differences

A teacher raises a fist during a protest rally in central Athens on Monday. Teachers’ union OLME is protesting the induction of hundreds of educators into the government’s public sector mobility scheme and their possible dismissal. Several sectors of the civil service are up in arms this week as the current round of transfers into the scheme is nearing an end.

Government officials and troika envoys appeared close to a deal late on Monday night after seven months of negotiations on the country’s economic reform progress.

Sources told Kathimerini that an agreement was in sight though it remained unclear whether it would be clinched during the night or if the final details would be hammered out in the coming hours or days.

A deal will open the way for Athens to secure further additional rescue loans ahead of the scheduled expiry of some 10 billion euros in bonds in May.

Officials indicated on Monday that progress had been made on some of the points of contention including a series of structural reforms that Greece must enforce to boost competition and on labor issues.

However, troika officials were said to be insisting on layoffs in the private sector despite the government’s readiness to make concessions to demands for the scrapping of automatic pay increases for those on the minimum wage.

The thorny matter of a long-delayed civil service overhaul remained unresolved. Foreign envoys continued to insist on another 2,000 layoffs in the civil service in 2015, according to sources who said that Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis rejected the troika’s demand out of hand.

A key sticking point related to the bulk of a projected primary surplus which the government has pledged to Greeks on low incomes. The government hopes to be able to distribute 500 million euros to low-income pensioners and members of the police and security services. But the troika is said to be pressing for a significant portion of the surplus to go toward growth-oriented measures and toward the state’s huge debts to third parties.

Once a deal is reached, all the agreed-to reforms must be wrapped into legislation and submitted to Parliament. According to sources, the government may submit the multi-bill as one article, rather than several, in a bid to force wavering lawmakers into voting “yes” rather than “no.” “We can’t have a new negotiation in Parliament,” one government source remarked.

ekathimerini.com , Monday March 17, 2014 (21:26)  
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