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Creditors Arrive in Athens for Crucial Bailout Program Review

Tsakalotos_StathakisGreece’s creditors arrived in Athens on Tuesday night in order to start the evaluation of the implementation of the bailout program with several issues still open.
The heads of the creditors’ missions – Declan Costello of the European Commission, Nicola Giammarioli of the European Stability Mechanism, Rasmus Rueffer of the European Central Bank and Delia Velculescu of the International Monetary Fund – will meet on Wednesday afternoon with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis to negotiate the issues that still remain open.
It is expected that talks will last until the end of April or early May. The pending issues are several and they are a prerequisite for starting negotiations on Greek debt easing.
The 1.8-billion-euro fiscal gap in the 2016 budget and the 3.5 percent primary surplus for 2018 are issues that remain pending and Greece has not presented a credible proposal yet.
The security fund reform is another thorny subject with creditors asking for pension cuts and Greece counter-proposing tax hikes and contribution increases.
There are also taxation issues that remain open, such as tax exemptions for lower incomes, in both salaries and pensions, and farmers taxation.
The selling of bad loans to distress funds and the change in management of Greek banks are also under negotiation with the Greek side trying to block selling of small business loans to distress funds and protect low income families from foreclosures of primary residences.
Also, creditors insist on the quick establishment of an independent privatization fund that should be managed by non-political persons. The Greek government is stalling on the fund that should have been established last year.
Finally, there are disagreements over the management of independent authorities such as the General Secretariat for Public Revenue that still remains headless. Creditors also complain that the position of general secretary of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) is vacant since September.

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