With aid clinched, Greek government shifts to reforms

Eurozone officials meeting in Brussels on Monday approved the release of 2.8 billion euros in rescue loans to Athens after Greek lawmakers approved a new raft of reforms including the dismissal of 15,000 civil servants by the end of next year.

“There was a positive evaluation of the implementation of the Greek program and clear references to the decisiveness of the government in proceeding with the program’s reforms,” the Finance Ministry said after the decision.

The 2.8-billion-euro installment had been due in March but was delayed after talks between government officials and Greece’s so-called troika of foreign lenders – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – broke down over the civil service overhaul. Eurozone finance ministers are to meet in mid-May to decide on the release of a further 4.2 billion euros in loans, with the IMF to decide later in the month on its contribution of 1.8 billion euros. Again, the disbursement will depend on Athens meeting further economic targets.

The “multi-bill,” which stipulates the civil service layoffs but also reduces a contentious property tax by 15 percent, passed easily through Parliament on Sunday, despite vehement objections by opposition parties, after clinching the support of 168 of the House’s 300 deputies.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, clearly buoyed by the vote result following a tense week of infighting between ministers, hailed the vote on the multi-bill, saying that it proved his government was “more unified than ever” despite opposition claims of widening rifts within the Cabinet. Sources indicated that the premier would likely put back an anticipated cabinet reshuffle until after June 28-30, when conservative New Democracy is to hold a congress, or even later.

The premier currently has more pressing concerns, chiefly overseeing the implementation of reforms voted into law including the politically sensitive process of merging and abolishing state organizations. Samaras is also keen to kick-start a lagging privatization program.

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