ECONOMY

Agreement on talks acceleration

Two clear messages emerged from the meeting between Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde in the early hours of Monday, Greek time: Greece will pay its dues to the Fund on time and will try to accelerate negotiations to reach a conclusion sooner.

A Greek official familiar with the matter stated that both Athens and the IMF are eager to see talks end quickly to have the assessment completed in time for the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers on April 24.

The government appears to have realized that this is the only way for the country to solve its cash problems, with the disbursement of at least a part of the outstanding bailout tranche.

To bring the end of talks closer, it intends to reach an agreement with its creditors by the end of the week on three to five major reforms, and yesterday it committed to continuing talks on all issues but separated into specific sectors.

Varoufakis presented Lagarde with his position on a primary surplus of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product for 2015, and he referred in detail to the problems in the negotiations, such as the issues of social security, labor and privatizations. The IMF’s consent is necessary for the sell-off list to be completed and to have at least part of the installment of 7.2 billion euros disbursed by the eurozone.

A Greek official said the Fund has agreed to the postponement of new measures on pensions until after June in exchange for the government’s pledge to tackle the issue of the social security system’s sustainability in the long term. The Fund refused to confirm that piece of information, saying discussions were private.

The Greek side believes it has the Fund’s support for the subject of the sustainability of the Greek debt to be raised after the completion of the negotiations, hoping for a start of talks on that issue before June.

On privatizations, the government apparently wishes to retain a 20-30 percent stake in what it sells off and is seeking sales that will attract investments, along the lines of Cosco’s entry into Piraeus.