Greece is scrambling to ready its arguments to inspectors of international lenders who are due to return to Athens next week to check progress on long-delayed reforms before giving the go-ahead for a 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) installment that was supposed to be paid in March but pushed back.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to get their acts together before they meet again with envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which wants the government to start firing 25,000 workers this year, and a total of 150,000 over the next three years.
Fearing a worsening climate in the Eurozone after the tense negotiations and hard terms imposed on Cyprus for a bailout, which Greece supported, Samaras held the talks to finalize the government’s stance that layoffs can be avoided through retirements and the dismissal of as many as 8,000 disciplinary cases in public service, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
Other issues on the table include the continued levy of a doubled property tax that’s being put into electricity bills under the threat of having power turned off and what kind of payment plan can be offered Greeks who can’t afford to pay huge tax increases.
It is still not clear how many civil servants will lose their jobs by the end of 2014. The most recent proposal Athens made to the Troika is for 5,000 public sector workers to be fired this year and next.
The New Democracy Conservative party leader Samaras, whose coalition government includes the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left, is expecting tough terms from the Troika over how to meet fiscal targets as austerity measures have backfired and brought in 2.4 billion euros ($3.07 billion) less than expected as Greeks slow spending to a near-standstill.
However, the coalition is also bracing itself for troika demands to address a potential fiscal shortfall. It is thought the lenders see the gap between revenues and spending reaching 2.4 billion euros this year and next. This is of concern to the government as the most recent bailout agreement Greece signed calls for automatic adjustments to be made.