Greece demands clarity from IMF

Greece has demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after an apparently leaked transcript suggested the IMF may threaten to pull out of the country’s bailout as a tactic to force European lenders to offer more debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks on Greece’s fiscal and reform progress in Athens today, aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring. 

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece’s fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s office said yesterday that he had asked IMF managing director Christine Lagarde to clarify the fund’s stance, after Internet whistleblowing site WikiLeaks published what it said was the transcript of a March 19 conference call of three senior IMF officials.

The officials were discussing tactics to apply pressure on Greece, Germany, and the EU to reach a deal in April.

They were quoted as discussing a threat that the fund might not participate in Greece’s third bailout programme as a way to force EU creditors, especially Germany, to reach a deal on debt relief before Britain’s June referendum on whether to stay in the EU.

An IMF spokesman in Washington said on Saturday that the Fund was not commenting on “leaks or supposed reports of internal discussions” but added the IMF had made its position known in public.

“We have stated clearly what we think is needed for a durable solution to the economic challenges facing Greece — one that puts Greece on a path of sustainable growth supported by a credible set of reforms matched by debt relief from its European partners,” the spokesman said.

Germany has in the past said the IMF is an important player in the Greek rescue but it does not support the debt relief demanded by the IMF. 

Some German officials also say they believe there are different views on Greece within the IMF. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet Ms Lagarde in Berlin tomorrow.

The purported conversation on the conference call involved Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF’s Europe department, Delia Velculescu, leader of the IMF team in Greece, and IMF official Iva Petrova.

They discussed whether Greece could apply more austerity as a condition for receiving more aid ahead of big debt repayments in July and voiced frustration at the European Commission’s reluctance to side with IMF pressure on Athens. 

They also suggest that Brussels is sticking to unrealistic assumptions about Greece’s budget shortfall to minimise the need for debt relief.


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