NEWS

IMF to send permanent monitors

The International Monetary Fund, one of the debt-ridden government’s three creditors, has decided to dispatch two permanent officials to Athens to monitor the progress of tax collection and a public spending crackdown, sources revealed yesterday. While acknowledging that the PASOK government has the political will to change the system, IMF officials have doubts about whether the public administration is adequately equipped to implement the changes at the fast pace that is required, the sources said. According to the same sources, IMF officials are concerned that the progress made while representatives from the Fund are in Athens immediately freezes once they leave. Initially, the IMF is to dispatch two permanent officials – one an expert in taxation, the other in curbing public spending. These two are to work closely with the Finance Ministry in implementing reforms and will also provide advice where necessary. There are also plans for another two IMF officials to subsequently relocate to Athens to «push for the implementation of reforms at the political level,» the sources said. It is believed that officials from the IMF – as well as the European Central Bank and the European Union countries that have agreed to contribute to the 110-billion-euro loan package to Greece – are chiefly concerned about the government’s tax crackdown. There are fears that a lack of progress in boosting state revenues might lead to the need for new austerity measures, which could fuel social unrest. The news of the imminent IMF arrivals came yesterday as the Washington-based institute issued a report noting that Greece had made a «strong start» in implementing reforms and austerity measures to get the economy back on track but had to be wary of 10 looming risks that could derail progress. These include state spending, which must be kept in check, and the rate of revenue collection, which is below target and must be increased. Another problem area is growth, which is lagging and must be stimulated if the economy is to be revived, according to the IMF.