Wide differences over pension and labour reforms continued to dog intensive talks between Greece’s leftist government and its international creditors, despite progress in other areas as the country’s cash position becomes increasingly critical.
Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis sounded the alarm yesterday, saying while Athens intended to meet all its payment obligations, including nearly €1bn to the IMF in May, it needed fresh funds before the end of the month.
“Liquidity is a pressing issue,” Sakellaridis told a news conference. “The Greek government is not waiting until the end of May for a liquidity injection. It expects this liquidity to be offered to the Greek economy as soon as possible.”
Labour minister Panos Skourletis said the IMF, Greece’s second biggest creditor after eurozone governments, was insisting on tough policy conditions for an interim deal to unlock frozen bailout aid.
The IMF was unyielding in demands for pensions cuts, rules to ease mass lay-offs of private sector workers and opposition to raising the minimum wage, Skourletis told Greece’s Mega TV.
“They are asking us to not touch anything [of the austerity measures] that have ruined Greek people’s lives in the last five years,” he said. “The IMF is the most inflexible side... the most extreme voices of the Brussels Group. But there are also calmer voices.”
Greece has to repay €970m to the IMF by May 12. It has been borrowing from municipalities and government entities to that end . Intensive talks on an interim deal between a re-shuffled Greek negotiating team and European Commission representatives, the ECB and the IMF, renamed the “Brussels Group”, have been underway since last Thursday.
The aim is to achieve a technical-level accord that would enable eurozone finance ministers to declare, when they meet on May 11, that there is a prospect of concluding the bailout review successfully. That could give the ECB grounds to permit Greek banks to buy more short-term treasury bills, easing the government’s cash crunch.
On Sunday, Greek and eurozone officials reported progress on some issues and forecast a result by Wednesday, when the ECB holds its weekly review of emergency lending to Greek banks.
Skourletis made clear that social policies, which the Syriza party has declared “red lines”, were the main stumbling block.
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