Greek government tells central banker to keep out of country’s politics


The Greek government told the country’s central bank chief to stay out of politics on Tuesday after he urged it to wrap up a long-delayed bailout review.

Bank of Greece Chief Yannis Stournaras on Monday warned the delay was creating uncertainty and risked forcing a downwards revision of growth forecasts this year.

Relations between the government and central bank have been strained in the past, though the leftist-led government’s swipe at Stournaras was the first for many months.

"Independent institutions can make their assessments but must refrain from politicizing," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said at a weekly news briefing.

After months of hard-fought negotiations, Greece now hopes for a deal with its international lenders during April and has said it is working to bridge differences on labor, pension and energy reforms.

"They must see that the responsibility for the delay does not lie on the side of the government but is due to irrational demands by the IMF," Tzanakopoulos said.

"One would expect a clearer and non-political view by those with institutional independence."

Stournaras served as finance minister under a previous coalition government before his appointment as central bank chief in 2014. He is a governing council member of the European Central Bank.

The government and its official lenders forecast the Greek economy will return to growth this year with output expanding by 2.7 percent. The Bank of Greece has been projecting 2.5 percent growth.

Tzanakopoulos said critics of the government’s handling of the review negotiations ought to consider the impact on growth had Athens yielded to IMF demands for extra austerity measures worth 4.5 billion euros in 2018-19.

"The stance of those who choose to reproduce doom scenarios on the course of the economy, exceeding their institutional role, creates a painful impression," the spokesman said.

Athens wants a "comprehensive deal" with lenders which would also address the intentions of creditors vis-a-vis debt restructuring for the crisis-hit country.

The IMF has yet to decide whether to participate in Greece’s latest bailout, worth 86 billion euros, expressing deep concerns over debt sustainability. [Reuters]