Gov’t braces for vote on reforms

Gov’t braces for vote on reforms

The government faces a busy week with the latest multi-bill of reforms to go before a vote Tuesday and several loose ends that must be tied up before the country’s creditors can sign off on the next loan sub-tranche worth 2.8 billion euros.

The bill contains provisions regarding pension reforms – notably the abolition of exemptions relating to healthcare contributions – as well as the transfer of several public organizations (DEKOs) into a new privatization fund. Those organizations are the Public Power Corporation, the Athens and Thessaloniki Water and Sewerage Companies (EYDAP and EYATH respectively), the Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELBO ), Attiko Metro and Buildings’ Infrastructures SA.

The bill is expected to pass into law as the coalition retains a slim but solid majority in Parliament and complaints rarely translate into defections in the House.

In addition to legislating the above changes, the government has promised creditors to make a series of administrative changes including appointing a supervisory board for the privatization fund.

The government hopes to have all the so-called milestones completed by Thursday when the Euro Working Group is to meet and prepare for the October 10 Eurogroup, when Athens hopes to get the green light for the release of the 2.8 billion euros.

The completion of the second review of Greece’s bailout will also pave the way for talks on relieving Greece’s huge debt, which the government is banking on politically and which the International Monetary Fund is insisting on before it joins the country’s third program.

The government is keen to clinch debt relief to boost its flagging popularity, which has been further hit by a growing political clash over a recent auction for television licenses following the revelations that one of the winners, a leftist contractor, was given considerable support by state-backed lender Attica Bank.

A festering dispute between the Education Ministry and the Church of Greece over religion lessons in schools and protests by the country’s judges at another round of cuts to be ushered in by changes to the wage structure of certain groups of civil servants have also put the government under pressure. However, authorities vehemently rebuff speculation about snap elections.

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