As a logjam over unresolved reforms remains with international lenders, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is set to meet with his Deputy Premier, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, on March 5 to try to find a way to break it before Eurozone finance chiefs meet next week over whether to okay release of a pending nine billion euro ($12.35 billion) installment.
The government has committed to 80 percent of 153 undone reforms recommended in a so-called Toolkit from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but that hasn’t satisfied the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
Also on the table is a dispute over how much more money Greek banks need on top of the 50 billion euros ($68.6) from $325 billion in two bailouts. The estimates range from 5-20 billion euros and are holding up a resolution on the talks and as the Bank of Greece this week is set to reveal the results of stress tests on state financial institutions.
Samaras and Venizelos are scheduled to talk a day after intense negotiations between the Troika’s envoys and Greek ministers, led by finance chief Yannis Stournaras, who also briefed the Premier.
After all the major structural reforms that have been plodded through, the negotiators are also down to minutiae as well, including lender demands to extend the shelf life of milk – essentially to allow sales of expired products – and to let supermarkets sell non-prescription drugs, an idea fiercely fought by pharmacists who want to keep a monopoly.
“It is not possible that milk is expensive in Greece as a result of the 35 percent that is produced locally and not the 65 percent that is imported,” a top government official told Kathimerini on the condition of anonymity. Critics have said Greek dairies operate as a cartel to artificially inflate the cost of their products, which sometimes cost more locally than when exported.
Another pending issue is the transfer of 4,000 more civil servants into a public sector mobility scheme so Greece can meet its target of shifting 25,000 employees in total. That is code language for firing them.
Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has asked for these positions to be taken by 4,000 municipal employees, which has apparently riled Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis, prompting Samaras and Venizelos to get involved.