Reichenbach: Greek recovery is ‘very difficult’

The head of the European Union’s Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach told The Economist conference in Athens on Tuesday that a Greek recovery will be «very difficult,» but outlined three areas that needed to be addressed imminently in order to jump-start the economy and delayed reforms.

Reichenbach said the top priorities for the new Greek government, which the task force is advising, should be addressing skyrocketing unemployment and improving competitiveness. To achieve this in the first phase, the economist said, the government must settle overdue VAT rebates to export companies, improve absorption of European funding and speed up privatizations.

«It would be very difficult to really improve the situation of the Greek economy even with these reforms if the very difficult situation of access to finance is not tackled,» Reichenbach said.

He also said that the Task Force has been working with Danish, Dutch, French and German experts, who are due to present a report within the month on how the Greek government can improve state revenue collection.

A group of Dutch experts are also expected to visit Athens within the month to offer technical assistance to the three-party coalition government headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on ways to boost the export market, Reichenbach said, adding that the Task Force had submitted a report in April outlining steps for reducing red tape in areas such as customs procedures.

The EU’s Task Force is in Athens as a technical team representing Greece?s international creditors — the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known collectively as the troika — is set to hold meetings with government officials on Tuesday to gauge the progress of agreed-to reforms, with top-ranking envoys due to arrive on Thursday.

The coalition government’s main aim is to ask the troika for more time to implement structural reforms, while also promising to begin scaling back the civil service by merging a number of its departments and shutting down services that are under-performing.

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