NEWS

Gov’t tries to bring back troika, reacting to action list

The government is doing its best to convince the troika to return to Athens and resume its latest review, with officials having sent inspectors responses to a 19-point to-do list and with a vote due in Parliament on Friday on a revised version of a bill facilitating debtors.

Following objections by the troika to plans to extend a payment scheme foreseeing up to 100 installments for debtors, the government has drafted a new bill exempting from the scheme all debts that expired after October 1. Practically, this means the four final installments of a unified property tax and the final tranches of income tax dues cannot be included in the scheme. The vote on the new bill had been slated for next Tuesday but, in a bid to show the troika it is addressing their concerns, Greek officials brought it forward. The troika is said to have objected to the extension of the payment scheme amid fears that it would increase Greece’s fiscal gap for next year by around 1 billion euros.

The concession by the government was the focus of angry debate in Parliament on Thursday, with many blaming Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis for the gaffe and even coalition MPs describing it as a public relations disaster.

The payment plan is one of several bones of contention. Authorities have responded to the troika’s to-do list and are awaiting news. Athens is said to be unwilling to discuss any changes to retirement ages or further cuts to pensions but is open to reviewing the viability of the pension system next year. Officials also oppose changes that would make it easier for employers to carry out mass layoffs in the private sector and are expected to press for the proposed revision of favorable value-added tax rates for the islands to be postponed until next year. Other issues including a unified wage structure for civil servants and a restriction of trade union powers remain on the table.

It was unclear on Thursday when the troika would return to Athens, with officials in Brussels and Washington saying a date had yet to be finalized. Athens is keen for the review to end before a summit of eurozone finance ministers on December 8 when Greece’s post-bailout prospects are to be considered.