ECONOMY

Greece told to sell more silverware, pick up reforms

Greece will pick up privatization its efforts in coming years in a bid to pay down its debt faster, selling a massive 50-billion-euros worth of state assets by 2015, its international lenders said on Friday, adding that the next tranche of aid has been approved.

Representatives from the so-called troika — the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — completed a two week review of the economy in Athens on Thursday and said that more reforms are needed to keep the economy on track.

The European Commission?s Servaas Deroose said that the government will increase targeted privatization revenues originally set at 7 billion euros up until 2013.

?Privatizations reduce the debt while also boosting efficiency in the economy,? he told reporters. ?The Greek government is very confident that this (figure) is feasible.?

The money will come from the sale of listed and non-listed state enterprise, the utilization of their assets and the development of real estate.

The government?s property portfolio has been estimated at some 300 billion euros by some market experts who also point out that only part of this can be developed due to a lack of a national land registry outlining ownership rights.

The first 15 billion euros will be raised in the 2011 to 2012 period, added Deroose, who stopped short of providing more specific details on which assets will go under the hammer at a time when prices are depressed due to the recession.

Deroose said that he is confident Greece will receive the fourth tranche of a 110-billion-euro rescue plan provided to save the government from bankruptcy last year, worth 15 billion euros.

The latest visit to Greece by the country?s lenders comes at a time when protest action has picked up in opposition to the liberalization of professional groups, streamlining of the state transport system, reforms and cuts to health spending and labor market changes.

?Most key policies are being implemented; delays should not take anything away from this achievement,? said Poul Thomsen, from the International Monetary Fund. ?The acceleration of structural reforms is needed to keep economic policy on track.?

Another general strike has been scheduled for February 23.

Looking ahead, the economic outlook remains unchanged with gross domestic product expected to contract by 3 percent this year and a stabilization of economic activity expected late in the year.

The next review of the economy by the troika will take place in May.