NEWS

Updated reform list still not enough to unlock aid

Greek officials and euro-area technical experts on Wednesday discussed an updated list of reform proposals but were unable to reach an agreement that would pave the way for Greece ending its liquidity shortage by receiving at least part of the 7.2 billion euros remaining in bailout funding.

Athens insisted that progress had been made during the Euro Working Group (EWG) teleconference, in which Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis also took part. However, there was a mixed reaction from European officials.

One eurozone official told the Wall Street Journal that the Greek proposals were a “very long way” from being the basis for an agreement that would allow the Eurogroup of finance ministers to agree a funding disbursal. Two unnamed euro-area officials recognized “the advances by Greece while insisting that more work needs to be done to reach a conclusion of this part of the rescue,” according to Bloomberg.

“It was just to take stock,” a source close to the EWG discussions told AFP. “There won’t be any developments in coming days,” he added. “We will continue with technical work in Athens. There is no Eurogroup meeting in sight.”

The updated Greek proposals foresee the adoption of measures that will bring in revenues of 4.7 billion to 6.1 billion euros, which would lead to Greece achieving a primary surplus of 3.1 to 3.9 percent of gross domestic product, which is above even the original 3 percent target in the country’s bailout program.

It is believed, though, that lenders think the Finance Ministry’s projections for revenues from many of the measures are too optimistic. The government, for instance, envisages 300 to 400 million euros being raised from the scrapping of tax exemptions as well as some other interventions in taxation. It aims to implement a tax on TV adverts, too, that will raise up to 70 million euros.

The Finance Ministry also proposes a receipt-based lottery seen tackling value-added tax evasion. It is further proposing the linking of all cash registers electronically with tax authorities so they can receive real-time information from retailers.

The government, however, is not proposing any major pension cuts or further labor market liberalization, which have been two of the lenders’ main demands.

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