Tuesday 27 September 2016

Greece crisis: secret IMF report says more debt relief, Tsipras struggles

* Confidential updated IMF debt analysis leaked
* Some in German government still prefer 'Grexit': Schaeuble
* Greek PM races to pass reforms but faces dissent from hardliners

Renee Maltezou and Jan Strupczewski

Published 14/07/2015 | 15:13

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at his office in Athens just after flying in from Brussels
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at his office in Athens just after flying in from Brussels
A man walks by a mural in Athens, Greece July 14, 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a showdown with rebels in his own party furious at his capitulation to German demands for one of the most sweeping austerity packages ever demanded of a euro zone government. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Greek premier Alexis Tsipras: faces opposition within Syriza
Pensioners are given priority tickets by a National Bank branch manager (R), as they wait to receive part of their pensions in Athens, Greece July 13, 2015. Euro zone leaders clinched a deal with Greece on Monday to negotiate a third bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone after a whole night of haggling at an emergency summit. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Youths hold a placard that reads 'Do we stay in Euro?' during an anti-austerity protest in central Athens, Greece, July 12, 2015. Euro zone leaders told near-bankrupt Greece at an emergency summit on Sunday that it must restore trust by enacting key reforms before they will open talks on a new financial rescue to keep it in the European currency area. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
A security worker leaves a National Bank branch after bringing money in central Athens, Greece, July 13, 2015. Euro zone leaders clinched a deal with Greece on Monday to negotiate a third bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone after a whole night of haggling at an emergency summit. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Sunlight reflects off solar water heaters in Athens, Greece, July 12, 2015. Euro zone leaders told near-bankrupt Greece at an emergency summit on Sunday that it must restore trust by enacting key reforms before they will open talks on a new financial rescue to keep it in the European currency area. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in her car at a euro zone leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2015. Euro zone leaders will fight to the finish to keep near-bankrupt Greece in the euro zone on Sunday after the European Union's chairman cancelled a planned summit of all 28 EU leaders that would have been needed in case of a "Grexit". REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A one Euro coin is seen in this file photo illustration taken in Rome, Italy July 9, 2015. Greece's 18 euro zone partners want Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to push legislation through parliament before releasing funds to avert a state bankruptcy and starting negotiations on a third bailout programme. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/Files GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE - SEARCH "BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD JULY 13" FOR ALL IMAGES
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and French President Francois Hollande at a euro zone leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2015. Euro zone leaders will fight to the finish to keep near-bankrupt Greece in the euro zone on Sunday after the European Union's chairman cancelled a planned summit of all 28 EU leaders that would have been needed in case of a "Grexit". REUTERS/Stringer/Pool
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and Finance Minister Michael Noonan and French Finance Minister Michel Sapin at the meeting in Brussels
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras
Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives for the meeting in Brussels yesterday
Pro-EU protesters take part in a rally in front of the Greek parliament in Athens last week. Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Greece still has a chance to access €1.2bn allocated to banks
A worker at the Athens Stock Exchange stands in the reception hall as an electronic board displays stock prices. Getty Images
A Greek national flag flies near the Parthenon temple on Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece, on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. Photo: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg
People withdraw cash from ATMs in central Athens on June 19, 2015, as a beggar lays on the pavement. The European Central Bank's decision-making governing council will hold an emergency session on June 19 to discuss a request from the Bank of Greece for an
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (L) and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis talk during a parliamentary session in Athens
Traders talk in front of the German share price index DAX board at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis leaves the Prime Minister's office where a governmental council takes place in Athens June 15, 2015. Greece's government on Monday played down the prospect of submitting a new counter-proposal as sought by lenders in
Visitors look at the view across the city from beneath the Parthenon temple on Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece
Passersby walk past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo July 13, 2015. Japan's Nikkei share average rose on Monday as yet another strong rebound in Chinese shares soothed investor sentiment and as oil's fall boosted airliners and other energy users, though uncertainty on Greece's fate in the euro zone capped gains. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Enda Kenny leaves a meeting of eurozone heads at the EU Council building in Brussels
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos arrives at the presidential palace in Athens yesterday

A secret International Monetary Fund study showed Greece needs far more debt relief than European governments have been willing to contemplate so far, as Germany heaped pressure on Athens on Tuesday to reform and win back its partners' trust.

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The IMF's stark warning on Athens' debt was leaked as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras struggled to persuade deeply unhappy leftist lawmakers to vote for a package of austerity measures and liberal economic reforms to secure a new bailout.

The study, seen by Reuters, said European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a dramatic maturity extension. Or else they must make annual transfers to the Greek budget or accept "deep upfront haircuts" on existing loans.

The Debt Sustainability Analysis is likely to sharpen fierce debate in Germany about whether to lend Greece yet more money.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble made clear in Brussels on Tuesday that some members of the Berlin government think it would make more sense for Athens to leave the euro zone temporarily rather than take another bailout.

Assuming Athens fulfils its end of the bargain this week by enacting a swathe of painful measures, the German parliament is due to meet in a special session on Friday to debate whether to authorize the government to open new loan negotiations.

"The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date - and what has been proposed by the ESM," the IMF said, referring to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

An EU source said euro zone finance ministers and leaders had been aware of the confidential IMF figures when they agreed on Monday on a roadmap to a third bailout.

IMF Managing-Director Christine Lagarde was present but the IMF did not make the updated assessment public, in contrast to a previous study which was released in Washington on July 2.

Lawmakers from Greece's ruling Syriza party and their allies were arguing behind closed doors about whether to back sweeping reforms the government must ram through parliament as it races to meet the terms of the unpopular bailout deal.

Having staved off financial meltdown, Tsipras has until Wednesday night to smother dissent from hardliners and pass measures tougher than those rejected in a referendum days ago. He can count on backing from pro-European opposition parties but he wants his own majority, without which his government's days are numbered.

Syriza and its right-wing nationalist junior coalition ally held separate meetings to prepare for parliament sittings to pass the laws, which include plans for tax hikes, pension reforms and tighter supervision of the government's finances.

It was a spectacular turnaround for a Syriza party voted into power in January promising to end years of cuts and recession in a country where one in four people is unemployed. There was some speculation, including in Germany's mass-selling Bild newspaper, that Tsipras could resign.

GORDIAN KNOT

Comparing the challenge facing the government to the Gordian Knot of mythology that was impossible to untie, Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis was nevertheless confident that Tsipras could muster enough votes in parliament.

But investors were less sure. European shares edged lower after a four-day rally amid uncertainty over whether the measures would be passed in time.

The Syriza party's junior coalition partner promised to support the government, with the ambiguous caveat that it would only vote for bailout measures agreed before last weekend's summit in Brussels, which were less stringent.

He and a parliamentary spokesman for Syriza railed against what he described as a "coup" by creditors to force Greece to accept harsh reforms, while opponents of the new measures are planning strikes and protests in the coming days.

"There are many people, including in the federal government, who are quite convinced that in the interests of Greece and the Greek people that what we wrote down would have been much the better solution," Schaeuble said when asked about a German proposal on a "time-out" for Greece from the euro zone.

GOVERNMENT IN QUICKSAND

Tsipras will probably have to sack some hardline ministers and count on opposition lawmakers to pass the reforms, which could be clubbed together in one bill on Wednesday.

"I've taken the decision, this is a tough third bailout and I will not vote for it," Despoina Charalambidou, a deputy speaker of the Greek parliament and a Syriza lawmaker, told Vima FM radio.

"Why should I resign? I was elected on the basis of a certain manifesto, the Syriza programme, which support these positions. I'm not giving up my seat."

Another obstacle could be the parliamentary speaker, Zoe Constantopoulou, who is key to the logistics of the vote and has been one of the creditors' most ferocious critics. Tsipras could try a potentially risky move of forcing her out through a no-confidence vote, although that would eat up precious time and political capital to prepare the reform bills.

"The government finds itself in quicksand after the deal with creditors," the centre-right Kathimerini newspaper said.

"Mr. Tsipras needs to solve a difficult equation as dissenters on Wednesday's vote may reach or exceed 40," it said. Tsipras needs 151 of 300 lawmakers to pass the reforms and with the votes of his own party and allies theoretically has 162.

The Bank of England Governor Mark Carney also drew on Greek mythology to underscore the scale of the challenge, saying it needs a "Herculean" effort from all sides for the deal to work.

Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann said a "Grexit" could not be ruled out despite the agreement, echoing findings by a Reuters poll of 60 economists, some of whom saw at least a 50 percent chance of Greece leaving the currency.

The poll, which was carried out in the 24 hours after news of the agreement broke, also pointed to scepticism about whether the deal was good for both Greece and Europe, and whether Greece had enough assets to sell to meet the terms of the deal.

Euro zone finance officials must find a way to give Greece bridge financing to keep the country afloat while the third bailout package is negotiated, especially to pay back loans owed to the European Central Bank next week.

There has been a mounting anger at both the government and creditors as many Greeks decry what they see as the humiliation of their country being treated like a European colony.

"With this deal, the public mandate and the proud 'No' of the Greek people in the referendum is cancelled," said Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, another of the leftist hardliners whom Tsipras must sidestep to implement the reforms.

"The dilemma posed by the creditors, truce or destruction, is fake and terroristic and has been demolished in the public conscience," he said.

The pain for Greece continues, with bank closures and strict controls on withdrawals from cash machines squeezing businesses dry. A Greek trade federation called on the government to loosen such capital controls to allow companies to make payments owed to overseas vendors

Reuters

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