Government shifts to enforcing reforms

Having secured a deal with the troika on a raft of new measures that must be taken in exchange for further rescue funding, the government on Wednesday shifted its focus to the business of implementing the reforms, which include the politically sensitive matter of thousands of layoffs in the civil service.

Ministry technocrats met in Parliament to discuss what action needs to be taken if Greece is to secure the release of a 2.8-billion-euro installment that had been due in March and another 6 billion euros for May. It remained unclear, however, whether the government would submit the measures to Parliament for approval or impose them using an emergency decree to avoid another cliff-hanger vote that could shake the cohesion of the fragile coalition.

Once again, the government has little time, with the next Euro Working Group on April 29 and the next scheduled Eurogroup summit on May 13.

The toughest challenge is almost certain to be the civil service dismissals as of the 4,000 layoffs that Greece must make by the end of the year, the troika reportedly expect half to be carried out by the summer. This suggests that many in the first wave of civil servants to lose their jobs will come from state bodies that are abolished, not from a pool of staff accused of disciplinary offenses. There are plans to speed up disciplinary procedures to resolve these cases but the process will take longer than abolishing the state bodies.

Emphasizing the pressing timetable faced by Greek authorities, sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras rebuffed speculation about a forthcoming cabinet reshuffle. They said that refreshing the Cabinet was not a current priority for Samaras though it is clear that his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, is pressing him to do so.

In a related development, a decision by the leader of the main leftist opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, to water down his original calls for revoking Greece’s loan agreement with its creditors, and call instead for its “suspension,” caused waves within SYRIZA, with prominent MP Panayiotis Lafazanis objecting to Tsipras’s new stance. Conservative New Democracy remarked, “Less than 24 hours after Tsipras expressed his new position on the memorandum… his party spokesman rushed to contradict him.”

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