Minister hopeful on crucial June loan instalment

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou has told Skai TV that Greece will have to stop paying its lenders if it does not receive the fifth instalment of its 110-billion-euro loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund next month.

However, Papaconstantinou said that he was confident that Athens would reach an agreement with the troika over the 12-billion-euro payment. The minister said that the absence of former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn had ?probably? affected the negotiations with Greece?s creditors.

Representatives of the troika (the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank) were due back in Athens on Tuesday after cutting short their inspection last week. They are expected to stay until June 6 to decide whether the government has done enough to qualify for its next loan instalment.

Speaking to Skai?s New Files program just hours after the government announced more tax hikes and the beginning of its privatization scheme, the finance minister justified the government?s constant adjustments to its fiscal program by saying that it had underestimated the size of the deficit and the depth of the recession.

?This explains why we have had to make more [fiscal] interventions,? he said.

Papaconstantinou defended the government?s record in the civil service, where the troika has pressed for employees to be fired. The minister said that there are now 30,000 fewer contract workers and, as a result of retirees not being replaced, the total number of civil servants has fallen by 83,000.

He repeated earlier statements by government officials that some civil servants might lose their jobs as part of ongoing departmental transfers.

The minister also clarified that Greece has no intention of using as collateral public property or Greek islands as part of scheme to obtain loans. He said, however, that the government would consider offering lenders the rights to future revenues from some projects.

The minister admitted that his biggest mistake has been to sometimes give the impression that things are better than they actually are but he added that he was not affected by criticism.

?As long as the prime minister trusts me, I will keep doing the job that I have to do,? he said.

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