Technical talks on budget to start in Athens

Technical teams representing Greece’s international creditors are to meet with government officials on Friday, following their arrival in Athens on Thursday, with talks expected to focus on the state of the budget before moving to matters such as a projected fiscal gap and specific reforms next week.

International Monetary Fund official Gerry Rice said on Thursday that the creditors need “more information and more discussions” before they can form an opinion of Greek finances and proposed economic reforms.

The goal, he said, was to agree on a set of policies that will allow Greek authorities to meet the targets of the loan program for stability and growth.

One of the first issues that technocrats must grapple with is the size of Greece’s revenue shortfall, which is believed to stand at around 2 billion euros. Greek officials are keen to negotiate a lower primary surplus target for this year, below 1.5 percent, to gain some much-needed breathing space. But, according to sources, the IMF believes that a discussion about the size of the primary surplus is premature.

During initial talks in Brussels on Wednesday, foreign officials made clear to their Greek peers that they need specific data from Athens in order to move forward and that implementing a Greek letter with reform proposals in a piecemeal fashion would not be acceptable. For instance, moving forward with legislation on a payment plan for tax debtors could be regarded as a unilateral action.

Separately, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras made a clarification regarding a complaint lodged by Athens with the German Foreign Ministry concerning statements made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. “It was very mistakenly reported by a portion of the media, both domestically and internationally, that the demarche Greece made to the German government was supposedly based on an incorrectly translated phrase characterizing the Greek finance minister,” he said. “On the contrary, the reasons for the specific demarche’s being made to the government of a country that is a friend, partner and ally lie in the substance of what was said by Mr Schaeuble.”

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