NEWS

Greece optimistic over next tranches

A mood of cautious optimism reportedly prevailed in the ranks of the government on Wednesday as a top European official told journalists that eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels next Monday are expected to make a “political decision” on two tranches of rescue funding for Greece worth a total of 7.3 billion euros.

The decision likely to be taken at the Eurogroup summit will relate to a 4.3-billion-euro tranche for the first quarter of the year and a 3.3-billion-euro installment slated for the second quarter, though the release of the latter slice will also require a separate positive assessment by the Euro Working Group. The European official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however emphasized that authorities still have much to do, particularly in the areas of overhauling the public sector and the tax collection system.

These difficult challenges, particularly the troika’s demand to lay off 4,000 civil servants by the end of this year, are reportedly top of the government’s agenda along with efforts to prepare for a much-hyped trip to China by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras next week. The premier will be accompanied by dozens of entrepreneurs for the five-day visit, which aims to drum up much-needed investment and improve Greece’s image in the eyes of potential investors.

A recent spate of positive news – including the recommendation by Morgan Stanley that investors purchase Greek bonds, an upbeat report by the International Monetary Fund, and the fact that yields on Greek bonds dropped to their lowest level in three years – have buoyed the Greek government.

However, sources close to Samaras refused to comment on Wednesday on rumors of a Eurogroup decision on two tranches of aid.

Sources indicated that a list of state organizations that are to be merged or abolished, leading to some 2,000 layoffs, will be made public after Samaras returns from China.

In a related development, the spokesman for the main leftist opposition SYRIZA, Panos Skourletis, said the party would review all privatizations undertaken by the government if it wins the next elections. Skourletis described last week’s sale of a 33 percent stake in gambling firm OPAP as “a scandal of massive dimensions.”