NEWS

Pressure grows for loan deal

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Monday Greece has to ?run fast? over the next few days to conclude an agreement with the troika over spending cuts and structural reforms as a number of contentious issues remain to be resolved before the country?s lenders disburse a 31.5-billion-euro loan tranche.

?We will go hungry if we do not get the next installment,? Stournaras told Parliament a day before coalition leaders were due to meet to discuss the measures. ?If we want to get the tranche before the state reserves run out then we have to run fast,? he added.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Kouvelis and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis are due to meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to go over the 13.5-billion-euro austerity package and reforms, or ?prior actions,? demanded by the troika.

According to sources, the troika has demanded that a clutch of restricted professions that have yet to be liberalized be opened by the end of the year. Athens and its lenders still have differences of opinion over labor reforms, particularly the reduction in compensation for sacked workers. Sources said this has been narrowed down to a disagreement over how much employees who have worked at the same company for over 16 years should be awarded if the lose their job.

It is also thought the two sides will negotiate a new, lower target for privatization revenues. Greece will aim to raise 10 billion euros by 2016 and 25 billion by 2020. The original target when the program started in 2010 had been 50 billion euros by 2015. The Greek government, however, is set to guarantee the political independence of its privatization fund, TAIPED. Greece has also examined the possibility of utilizing more than 80,000 real estate properties owned by the state, which could raise 20 to 28 billion euros over time.

Another matter that remains unresolved relates to the country?s civil service. The troika has reportedly dropped its demands for the immediate layoffs of 15,000 civil servants but is said to be insisting on the sacking of at least 5,000 public sector workers by the end of the year ? either through a labor reserve scheme or through permanent dismissal ? with another 5,000 to go in the first quarter of 2013.