NEWS

EU-IMF inspectors in Athens assessing reforms

A top-ranking delegation of European Union and International Monetary Fund officials are on Monday to start assessing the progress Greek authorities have made in pushing through structural reforms which are a precondition for the release of a fourth installment of 15 billion euros in rescue funding.

The officials arrived in Athens over the weekend and have already have been briefed on the government?s efforts by a team of lower-ranking EU and IMF officials who have conducted inspections on several ministries and their data over the past two weeks.

According to sources, Monday’s meetings are to focus on the implementation of new labor laws that have prompted protests by workers’ unions and on the new tax framework. The officials have reportdly expressed concerns about a delay in the collection of outstanding taxes. They are also said to be worried about the government?s failure to introduce a revised wage scale for civil servants and about the delay in opening up closed professions – seen as a key way of boosting competitiveness and kick-starting the sluggish economy.

Government officials made no public statements ahead of the crucial visit.

However, Reuters on Sunday quoted an unidentified Finance Ministry official as confirming that the installment would be disbursed next month as scheduled. ?The tranche has been secured,? the official was quoted as saying. Several reports in the national press over the weekend suggested that the government might be called upon to further cut labor costs to boost competitiveness.

But on Saturday, at a press conference following an EU summit in Brussels, Prime Minister George Papandreou indicated that the government was on the right path and that no more austerity measures were imminent.

?Greece has done what it was supposed to do and it is clear that the discussions we have had today in no way translate into more measures for Greece,? Papandreou said. The premier added that Greece had changed from ?a special case and a problem in the eurozone to a part of the solution.?