Greece’s Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis has said that he is optimistic about the outcome of today’s negotiations with international creditors. The minister delivered the statement after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at Maximos Mansion yesterday evening.
Hardouvelis declared that government will approach the negotiations with determination. He also pleaded with the media to put an end to the rumours reported in the last few days.
At noon today, the Greek premier will meet with Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos at Maximos Mansion.
The heads of the troika of Greece’s lenders will have their first meeting with Hardouvelis at the Ministry of Finance at 11:30 this morning. According to a key finance ministry official, “all issues under negotiation will be laid on the table tomorrow.”
According to the present itinerary, representatives of the lenders will meet with the development minister at 11:30 am on Wednesday, followed by a meeting with the minister of administrative reform at 3 pm.
On Thursday afternoon, they will have a meeting with Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis. They will meet with the environment ministry leadership on Friday.
Perhaps the most critical battle in this round of troika negotiations will take place on Thursday at the Ministry of Labour. The troika will ask to discuss the issues of social insurance and labor, while the Minister of Labor’s “red line” has reportedly been set at refusing any reduction in primary pensions, as well as any change in retirement age limits.
The government is expected to refuse any reduction of pension payments by primary insurance funds. Vroutsis will demonstrate that a number of laws have resolved this issue. This applies to those who retire from 2015 onwards, since a new way of calculating primary pensions has been set. Regarding supplementary pension funds, from 2015 onwards, the clause of “zero deficit” will apply. This means that, depending on the financial situation of each insurance fund, both lump sum payments and supplementary pensions will be adjusted accordingly.
On the issue of lay offs, the government is expected to request additional time in order to evaluate the changes that have been made. The troika will insist on new legislation. For trade union law changes, the discussion remains open. In the hopes of arriving at a consensus, a meeting has been scheduled today between the Minister and EU representatives with the General Director of the International Labor Office in Geneva.
According to finance ministry data, the measure for non-performing loans would apply to approximately 100,000 small and medium-size businesses and 10,000 “big” companies. The measure affecting SMEs will be “horizontal,” meaning that the same criteria and conditions will apply for all companies. The details for big companies will be established on a case-by-case basis. A fundamental criterion will be the viability of companies in debt. Shareholders will also be obligated to contribute to the consolidation of company finances.
The measure – which will apply for two years – will include a write-off of fines and an extension of deadlines for debt payments. In some instances, interest rates will be reduced and grace periods will be granted. “The overall image of the balance sheets of banks will not be affected as any losses will be offset by the provision of tax rebates towards the banks which will be given in time,” a development ministry source said.