Greece all but secures next tranche

The disbursement of the January tranche of the bailout loans to Greece, amounting to 9.2 billion euros, can now be taken for granted, following Monday’s favorable decision by the Euro Working Group in Brussels that is expected to be ratified by the Eurogroup council of eurozone finance ministers next Monday.

Sources point to the approval by the meeting yesterday of the group of finance ministry officials, who are responsibly for preparing the agenda for Eurogroup meetings, and add that this was mostly a formality, given that the political decision had been made in December and the first tranche has already been paid out. Consequently the only pending issues are the formal implementation of the prior actions scheduled for January, which Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Monday said are being fulfilled.

On Wednesday the International Monetary Fund’s executive board will convene to approve its share of the package to Greece, amounting to 3.3 billion euros. The head of the fund, Christine Lagarde, said on Monday that Greece will show better-than-expected results, while noting that Athens will have to try harder in terms of tax collection.

Economic and Monetary Affairs European Commissioner Olli Rehn’s spokesman, Simon O’Connor, hailed the Greek government’s affirmative vote for the new tax law, branding it an important step toward the simplification of the country’s tax system and the broadening of the tax base.

“What the technical analysis and the history of crisis management have shown is to act strongly and powerfully at the start in order to bear the fruit later. Greece has made great efforts and that is good news,” said Lagarde.

The Greek member of the European Commission, Maria Damanaki, said on Monday that the climate is now much better for Greece in Brussels and that the country has avoided the worst. After her meeting with President Karolos Papoulias in Athens, Damanaki said that “it is now the time for Greece to act. The Greek political forces ought to draft and implement a plan for the country’s growth, for a serious public administration, for tax efficiency and for the banking system. We cannot and should not expect that from the country’s creditors.”