ECONOMY

Talks with creditors’ experts continue

The Finance Ministry is waiting for the end of the festive period before it continues consultations with the country’s international creditors on a technical level in the runup to the January 25 general elections and the formation of a new government.

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis spoke to representatives of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, who after the Parliament’s failure to elect a new President wanted to establish whether negotiations can continue. Hardouvelis made it clear that there can be no discussion on policies regarding the bailout program, and certainly none on the post-bailout period for Greece.

This was also the message sent to Athens by the IMF right after efforts to elect a president failed on Monday.

However, on a technical level Greek officials and EU/IMF experts will be remaining in touch in order to push ahead with certain issues that are not affected by political decisions. One such example is strengthening the independence of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues, a necessary prerequisite to bolstering the crackdown on tax evasion, promoting optimum operation between tax collection mechanisms and averting political interference in tax administration.

Another field on which talks with experts will focus is the execution of the state budget, which is not expected to be affected by the upcoming elections. In fact, the EU/IMF are eager to see budget data as it is quite common for there to be a slowdown in tax collection and laxer expenditure policy during an election period.

The aim of the ministry is to avoid the derailment of the budget as that would put the next government in a difficult position in its dealing with the creditors. The latter are already asking for fiscal measures worth 1.7 billion euros for 2015, so any relaxation in spending and a shortfall in revenues would expand that gap further and increase the demand for additional interventions this year in the course of the negotiations that are set to follow the political developments in Athens later this month.