NEWS

Troika pushes on measures

Top-ranking officials representing Greece?s foreign creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - Monday reportedly rebuffed appeals by the government for more time to meet targets aimed at reducing the country?s huge budget deficit, insisting that authorities move fast on implementing an across-the-board wage structure for public sector employees and slashing public spending.

According to sources, the visiting officials - who met with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Administrative Reform and e-Governance Minister Dimitris Reppas - showed no willingness to renegotiate the deadlines to which the government has committed itself.

The officials are also said to have expressed disappointment with delays in the drafting of a wage structure for civil servants and in the enforcement of an agreement according to which surplus staff in the broader public sector remain on a labor standby status for 12 months, receiving just 60 percent of the basic salary, before being reassessed.

The inspectors expressed further dissatisfaction over the fact that a new rule - foreseeing just one hiring for every 10 departures from the civil service - is not being properly enforced.

Sources said the ministry officials were told that the number of contract workers in the civil service would be reduced by 50 percent compared to 2010.

The inspectors, who are also to discuss a range of thorny issues including tax evasion with Venizelos, are to round off their meetings by September 5.

Their aim is to compile a report by the middle of the month - a deadline that Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker has pressed them to keep to.

Juncker on Monday chaired a teleconference of eurozone finance ministers, focusing on a problem that has threatened to scupper a fragile consensus on Greece?s second bailout - Finland?s insistence on guarantees from Greece.

Juncker said the collateral barrier was not insuperable and that he expected a solution within days or weeks. ?The Eurogroup is working on a proposal, which I hope all eurozone member states will be happy with,? Reuters quoted Juncker as saying.

Meanwhile sources told Kathimerini that Finland is preparing to revert to its original demand for state assets to be put up as collateral for any loans - a demand Athens had dismissed out of hand.

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