Saturday 24 September 2016

Greece threatens to miss IMF loan repayment

Karolina Tagaris and Deepa Babington

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a meeting at the Education Ministry in Athens, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Tsipras says Greece has submitted a proposal for an agreement with its creditors, as Athens seeks a deal that will to unlock desperately needed rescue money. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a meeting at the Education Ministry in Athens, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Tsipras says Greece has submitted a proposal for an agreement with its creditors, as Athens seeks a deal that will to unlock desperately needed rescue money. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece threatened to miss a loan repayment to the IMF this week, opening the way for possible default, just hours before creditors were expected to present an ultimatum offering Athens funds in return for economic reform.

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Brussels late yesterday to see senior European officials, and was expected to hear the terms of the plan drawn up this week at a meeting of top leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He called on creditors to show some "realism", saying he wanted a deal that would let Greece escape from "economic asphyxiation" and put an end to "doomsday scenarios", including his country being ejected from the single European currency.

With time running out, and looking to draw a line under months of acrimonious negotiations, Greece's creditors have effectively come up with a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

Details of the proposal - and a rival one sent by Athens earlier this week - began to emerge yesterday. Greece's offer called for a budget surplus before interest payments of 0.8pc this year and 1.5pc next year - close to the creditors' proposal for 1pc in 2015 and 2pc in 2016, sources familiar with the proposals said.

The creditors see that surplus gradually rising to 3.5pc in 2018, Eurozone officials said. Athens offered to curb early retirements to save on pension payouts in line with previous proposals but it was not clear if it had offered any new concessions demanded by lenders on labour and pension reform.

The creditors' willingness to lower the surplus target to levels below those set in Greece's bailout programme represent a concession to Athens. But the proposal will almost certainly contain other elements that will be hard to accept for Tsipras and his leftist Syriza party, which was elected in January promising to end years of austerity for Greece.

Locked out of international bond markets, Greece has not received any cash from its main creditors - the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and Eurozone countries - since last August and its coffers are all but empty.

It is due to pay back the IMF €300m of loans on June 5, but the spokesman for Syriza's lawmakers said on Wednesday it would miss this deadline if there was no prospect of an aid-for-reforms deal with its creditors.

"If there is no prospect of a deal by Friday or Monday, I don't know by when exactly, we will not pay," Nikos Filis told Mega TV yesterday.

Greece has three other repayments, totalling some €1.23bn, due to the IMF in June after the one tomorrow.

Mr Tsipras is due to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem in Brussels, as well as representatives from the ECB and IMF.

"We do not expect any final outcome tonight. This is a first discussion, not a concluding one," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a regular media briefing in Brussels yesterday.

The Greek prime minister, who has vowed not to inflict more economic hardship on his people and faces a backlash in his party if he is forced to retreat on this pledge, said he would push his government's proposal at the Brussels meeting.

"Today, more than ever before, it is necessary that the institutions, and mainly the political leadership of Europe adopt the realism that the Greek side has been showing for the past three months," he told Greek television.

However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said his first impression of the proposal confirmed his view the talks would not be over soon.

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