February 27, 2024

Greek Government Tries to Sell New Belt-Tightening Measures

Inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission were to return to Greece next week after two teleconferences this week with the Greek government. The commission said that “progress was made” in the calls for an agreement to pave the way for the release of the next portion of aid, totaling €8 billion, or $10.9 billion.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos of Greece told Parliament before a cabinet meeting that extra measures would be needed to meet the targets set by the lenders. But he did not specify what they were and did not elaborate on a new property tax, proposed this month, or Greek media reports indicating there would be sharp wage and job cuts in the civil service.

“We are trying to find a solution that causes as little pain as possible,” he said. The government will do everything possible to keep the country “out of danger,” he added.

“We will not put the country’s very existence at risk over matters that account for half or 1 percent of G.D.P.,” he said. “The markets are blackmailing us and the circumstances are humiliating us.”

Other possible measures reportedly being discussed include raising taxes on heating oil tax and reducing the tax-free threshold for incomes.

Charles Jenkins, an analyst in London covering European Union for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said that word of progress being made in the negotiations “provides some short-term relief that an agreement will be reached” to enable Greece to meet its bills for the next two months.

“But even if this proves correct, further crises are likely as further tranches are required every two months,” he said.

Mr. Jenkins said it was far from clear whether the Greek government had the “capacity to enforce expenditure cuts or to increase its collection of taxes.”

The Greek prime minister, George A. Papandreou, was to meet his German counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel, for dinner and talks in Berlin on Tuesday, the German government announced.

Mrs. Merkel has been under pressure from skeptical lawmakers within her own coalition over the proposed enhancements to the E.U. bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which include powers allowing it to buy sovereign debt and support banks.

In Berlin, however, the lower house of Parliament’s finance committee backed the proposals Wednesday with a “big majority,” the deputy finance minister, Hartmut Koschyk, told Bloomberg News. The bill won support from the opposition but the coalition was able to pass it without their help, he said.

The budget committee was also due to deliberate the proposed changes to the E.U. bailout fund, before the bill goes to a full vote on Sept. 29.

Frank Engels, an analyst at Barclays Capital, said even if the rescue fund bill is passed by a very healthy majority in the Parliament, “German politics are likely to become even more volatile than before in the wake of the growing divergence” between Mrs. Merkel’s conservatives and her junior partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, “on matters related to the euro.”

The leader of the Free Democrats, who have suffered a series of stinging local election defeats recently, has been at odds with Mrs. Merkel over whether the possibility of a Greek default should be considered.

So far, Spain, France, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg have ratified the July 21 deal on expanding the rescue fund. The rest are supposed to do so by early October, but there are indications from several countries, including Austria, Finland and Slovakia, that approval is likely to be delayed.

Austria’s parliamentary finance committee is scheduled to discuss the bill on Tuesday before a vote in Parliament on Sept. 30.

In Finland, Parliament is expected to vote on the bill next Wednesday. The government has been insisting on sticking to a provision in the July agreement under which it would receive collateral for its contribution — a clause that has proved divisive.

In Slovakia, Finance Minister Ivan Miklos said Monday that Parliament would vote on the plan by Oct. 11, Bloomberg News reported. But the government still lacks majority support for the overhaul within the ruling coalition parties.

The fall of the government in Slovenia on Tuesday threatens another delay.

The Dutch Parliament is scheduled to approve a supplementary budget, which includes the proposed rescue fund changes, in first week of October, a Finance Ministry spokesman, said Monday, according to Reuters.

Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=9a499df56845b7104b95a4e2114abee1

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