Sunday 21 January 2018

Greece to present draft reform bill

A man walks past a Greek flag in the central market of the northern port city of Thessaloniki (AP)
A man walks past a Greek flag in the central market of the northern port city of Thessaloniki (AP)

Greece says it will discuss with its creditors tomorrow a draft bill of reforms it hopes will earn their approval and pave the way for the unlocking of vitally needed bailout funds.

The draft bill is expected to include measures proposed by finance minister Yanis Varoufakis during the negotiations with creditors, which have dragged on for over three months and raised concerns the country might not get the loans in time to avoid a debt default.

The bill will be discussed with representatives of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission, dubbed the Brussels Group, at a meeting in the Belgian capital on Thursday, two government officials said.

The draft was expected to be discussed during a Greek cabinet meeting set for Thursday afternoon.

Officials from the eurozone's finance ministries, the commission and European Central Bank, known as the Euro Working Group, would be meeting later today.

"The aim of the negotiation at all levels is the achievement of a mutually beneficial agreement," one official said. "The Greek government is optimistic that this will be achieved soon."

Deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis said he believed the two sides would reach at least an interim agreement in the first few days of May.

"Today we are seeking a solution. But 'any solution' is not good enough. It must be a viable solution," Mr Dragasakis said in an interview on Sto Kokkino radio.

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras said this week he expects a deal to be reached by May 9, in time for the next finance ministers' meeting on May 11.

The exact contents of the bill have not been publicly announced, but are expected to include reforms to some tax measures. Athens hopes they will be sufficient for its creditors to approve the disbursement of the final 7.2 billion euro (£5.1 billion) instalment from its 240 billion euro (£172 billion) bailout.

After long delays and with Greece expected to run out of cash within weeks, hopes rose this week that progress was finally being made.

The European Commission said yesterday that talks were now "being made more productive and efficient" and that the pace of negotiations had "intensified" since last weekend's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, where Mr Varoufakis came under intense pressure from his colleagues.

Time is running out. Greece faces nearly one billion euro (£717 million) in debt repayments to the IMF by May 12. It is expected to be able to meet the repayment as well as this month's pensions and salaries if it raises as much as it expects from a planned move to use cash reserves from state enterprises.

But beyond that repayment date, Greece will have trouble finding the money to keep the country running and pay off debts. The government is locked out of the international borrowing market by sky-high interest rates that reflect investor fears it will default.

Press Association

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