NEWS

Troika wants firm proposals

Auditors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who are due to leave Athens Friday and Saturday following 10 days of tense talks with government officials on economic reforms, will expect to see concrete proposals on the new measures that will allow the country to meet fiscal targets when they return in mid-January as well as progress in talks on a debt swap, sources have told Kathimerini.

Top officials from the EC, ECB and IMF, known as the troika, met with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos yesterday as well as the leaders of his coalition government. According to sources, there was significant progress in talks between the troika and New Democracy — the most popular party in opinion polls — with the latter committing to the basic axes of a program for structural reform and spending cuts.

Papademos — who also met with troika officials and the head of the EC?s task force to Greece, Horst Reichenbach — urged his ministers to strive harder to implement the tough reforms agreed with creditors within tight deadlines.

Reichenbach met yesterday with Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas, who indicated for the first time that the government was willing to consider layoffs in the bloated public sector. Reppas was responding to comments by the IMF?s mission chief in Athens, Poul Thomsen, according to which authorities should stop regarding layoffs as ?taboo? and ?start moving more aggressively in closing down redundant state enterprises.?

The minister emphasized that the troika had not proposed public sector layoffs during negotiations but that if they did, ?we will discuss it.?

Meanwhile speculation about a possible government reshuffle — aimed at creating a more efficient cabinet that can push through crucial reforms quickly — mounted last night after reports that the possibility had been raised during meetings between Papademos and the leaders of the three parties in his coalition.

According to sources, the scenario was proposed by the leader of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, and was warmly welcomed by Socialist PASOK leader and former Premier George Papandreou. The leader of conservative New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, was said to have some reservations but no major objections.