Government hopes to avert layoff talks

With speculation mounting that representatives of Greece’s foreign creditors are expecting to see layoffs in the public sector, particularly following comments on Thursday by a top-ranking European official about Greece’s oversized civil service, government officials are debating how to tackle the politically sensitive issue when troika chiefs arrive in Athens on Sunday.

The government aims to shift the discussion from talk of immediate layoffs by pointing to an unexpectedly large wave of early retirements in the civil service and insisting that the first public servants to go should be those found to have violated the code of service, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources, visiting inspectors expect specific commitments from the government regarding the number of civil servants – from the 25,000 who are to be put into a labor mobility scheme this year – who will actually be dismissed.

The troika will likely insist on seeing a breakdown on departures for each ministry and state body.

Greek officials are expected to emphasize the potential political and social risks of imposing new measures, pointing to the example of Italy, where a public backlash against austerity has resulted in political upheaval.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and other ministry officials met on Thursday, and are to meet again on Friday, to discuss strategy ahead of the anticipated arrival in Athens of the troika chiefs.

Greece and its progress in implementing reforms is expected to be discussed at the next Eurogroup summit in Brussels on Monday, when the issue of Cyprus, and its likely appeal for foreign rescue aid, is to top the agenda. There also appears to be some distance between Athens and the troika on the issue of improving revenue collection.

Troika experts delivered a report at the end of January that called for a major overhaul of the tax collection system, including the financial crimes squad (SDOE).

Greece’s lenders want these to come under the jurisdiction of the newly appointed general secretary for revenues, Haris Theoharis. However, it appears that the government is opposed to giving the official such powers.

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