ECONOMY

Greek officials return to work as economic reform deadline looms

Greek government officials are returning to work on Tuesday after the Orthodox Easter break to face the daily grind of negotiations to unlock financing and keep the country afloat.

The most indebted state in the euro should be targeting having a list of reform proposals by about April 20, EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in Bloomberg Television interview on Monday. European Union finance ministers are planning to meet to discuss the matter on April 24 in Riga, Latvia.

That meeting “will be a good occasion to take stock of how the technical negotiations have been going so far,” Dombrovskis said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday. “Greek authorities themselves are emphasizing that the cash situation is getting more difficult,” he said, adding that there is still a lot of work to be done before April 20.

With a monthly bill of about 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for pensions and salaries, Greek officials last week said they are targeting the finance minister meeting as a deadline for approving new money. A looming cash crunch in the summer, when the European Central Bank needs to be repaid, means any respite would be temporary.

Greek stocks opened lower Tuesday morning, with the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange falling 0.6 percent at 10.43 a.m. local. Bonds fell, with yields on 3-year Greek government notes rising 95 basis points to 22.29 percent.

No austerity

The negotiations on more aid are focused on honing an initial agreement reached in February over reforms including tax collection and maintaining sales of state-owned companies. That was struck a month after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was elected on a platform of rolling back austerity measures.

“There will be no more austerity measures,” Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said in an interview broadcast on Antenna TV on Tuesday. “This government won’t sign a new memorandum.”

Greece’s goal is to unlock about 7 billion euros of aid from its existing program before likely having to conclude negotiations on another one to be able to repay the ECB for bonds it bought under a program to prop up local debt markets.

The Greek government spent some of its holiday weekend batting down a report that the country is preparing to default if an agreement is not reached with creditors on April 24. They also denied a report on Monday that Tsipras is considering calling new elections.

[Bloomberg]