By: Kerin Hope
Greece agrees deal with creditors on bailout reforms
Greece has wrapped up a deal with creditors on details of reforms that must be enacted before the country can receive the next disbursement from its €86bn bailout programme.
The deal, which covers a wide range of fiscal and structural measures, from fresh cuts in pensions to liberalising Sunday trading, was completed during intensive talks over the past week after months of wrangling between Greek finance ministry officials and bailout monitors from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Differences over the size of cuts to be applied in 2019 on pensions already reduced by over 40 per cent since 2011 held up an agreement, according to people involved in the negotiations.
“There is white smoke… the negotiation is finished with agreement on all the issues,” said Euclid Tsakalotos, the finance minister, after an all-night session of talks.
The further pension reduction was agreed at 18 per cent.
Greece’s parliament must now approve the reforms, opening the way for the euro area finance ministers to sign off on the agreement at a meeting on May 22.
The ruling leftwing Syriza party and its rightwing coalition partner Independent Greeks hold a slim three-seat majority in parliament.
But with opinion polls giving the opposition centre-right New Democracy a double-digit lead, coalition lawmakers are expected to back the measures unanimously rather than trigger a snap election by rebelling against more austerity.
Greece urgently needs the next bailout payment to meet looming deadlines in July for repaying more than €6bn of debt.
The agreement is also a condition for securing the participation of the IMF as a financial partner in the current bailout in line with a requirement by Germany, the leading European contributor to three successive Greek rescue programmes since 2010.
The Fund insists that Greece be granted debt relief before it can join the bailout claiming the country’s huge debt burden is unsustainable, while Berlin rules out a “haircut” of Greek debt, setting the stage for a tricky political negotiation.
A Greek official said the agreement did not include precise figures on targets for the primary budget surplus – before making payments of interest and principal on the country’s debt – as these would be finalised during talks on the extent of debt relief to be granted by the creditors.Greece achieved an unprecedented primary surplus of 3.9 per cent of gross domestic product in 2016 against a target of 0.5 per cent. But the Fund doubts that the EU’s target for Greece of a 3.5 per cent primary surplus could be maintained over the medium term.
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