Greece to present draft reform bill to lenders

Greece is expected to present draft reform legislation to lenders on Wednesday, government officials said, in a bid to show it is serious about acting on pledges to secure aid.

Athens needs to repay loans of about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to the IMF in May and the bill is its latest move to speed up negotiations in the hopes of reaching a deal with European and IMF creditors before it runs out of cash.

The bill is not expected to offer major new concessions beyond those already discussed with lenders, officials said. But it includes details on measures to tackle corruption and evasion, and the publication of a concrete bill is meant to underline the government’s intent.

It will include tax and public administration reforms, a tax on television broadcasting rights and TV advertisements, official said. Tourists on popular Greek islands will be required to use a credit card for transactions of more that 70 euros in an effort to crack down on tax evasion.

The talks have been held up on disagreement about major issues like pension and labor reform as well as a proposed value-added tax hike on Greek tourist islands.

One official said the government would try to move forward on the labor deadlock by pushing back its plan to raise the minimum wage, a move the lenders oppose.

However, Greece’s deputy labor minister reiterated the government would not agree to demands for further pension cuts.

“Our government is making every possible effort right now to have a positive deal, which will respect our program, which will respect the main principle of our program since we took power, which is to put a brake on wage and pension cuts,” deputy Labor Minister Dimitris Stratoulis told Mega TV.

The draft bill is expected to be debated at a cabinet meeting in Athens on Thursday, a finance ministry official said on condition of anonymity. Once approved, it would then go on to be debated in parliament.

“A deal should be reached as soon as possible because it will benefit both sides,” deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told Reuters. [Reuters]

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