PM to push ministers on troika targets

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is on Tuesday to chair a session of key ministers in a bid to ensure that they are on track toward fulfilling commitments made by Greece to its troika of foreign lenders in exchange for continued rescue loans, chiefly the much-delayed projects of streamlining the civil service and privatizing state assets.

Top on the agenda of talks between Samaras and key members of the Cabinet including Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis are the induction of thousands of civil servants into a so-called mobility scheme where they will get reduced pay ahead of transfer or dismissal as well as a plan for restructuring of Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS), the Hellenic Vehicles Industry (ELVO) and the Larco mining company. A new code of conduct for the country’s lawyers is another topic to be discussed.

Independent advisers have been given a deadline of the end of August to submit recommendations to the government, which is keen to ensure that the necessary action is taken in time to secure a positive report from troika envoys who are due back in Athens on September 9.

The mobility scheme remains the toughest challenge for the government, with teachers staging a protest rally in central Athens on Monday ahead of the scheduled transfer of at least 1,600 educators from their posts. Their action followed similar protests last week by municipal police officers and school janitors. Similar reactions are likely from other sectors as the Greek authorities have committed to the troika to place 25,000 civil servants in the mobility scheme by the year. Already workers in the health sector – one of the next targets in the scheme – have organized protests.

Samaras is likely to press ministers to speed up the evaluation of staff at their ministries to ensure the project remains on track. Mitsotakis, who has been tasked with overseeing the civil service overhaul, appealed to his colleagues to join the effort. “I have repeatedly said that the job of administrative reform is being overseen by this ministry but, if we are to hit the targets, all the ministries must be involved.”

Greece has also promised the troika it will lay off 4,000 civil servants this year and another 11,000 next year. The dismissal of some 2,600 employees – following last month’s sudden closure of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) – was supposed to contribute to this target. Samaras subsequently pledged to rehire most of the ERT staff on short-term contracts but the workers remain holed up in the broadcaster’s old headquarters and it remained unclear whether they would apply for the 2,000 temporary positions at a temporary broadcast service that were announced on Monday. The deadline for applications is August 2.

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