ATHENS – Greece’s new coalition government, in a desperate bid to find money, is scouring state and local enterprises and agencies and demanding they turn over what they have.
The alarm went up after Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said the government is short some 350-400 million euros of being able to pay salaries and pensions with talks stalled with international lenders.
Just over an hour later, Mardas said that shortfall would be covered by cash reserves offered by pension funds and other bodies although the government said previously it wouldn’t touch pensions.
He told Kathimerini that authorities were “making an effort to enforce the law in order to secure the greatest possible liquidity for the needs of the Greek economy.”
That referred to a Presidential decree forcing state bodies to transer their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece with the promise they might be repaid one day.
Mayors and other officials have refused, fearing they’ll never see the money again and that it would have been wasted on a one-time one-month payment as the negotiations with lenders floundered.
The government has reportedly told public bodies such as the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP), as well as the pension funds to give up their money.
State hospitals and universities will not be exempt and the government is also going after other agencies, such as the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the natural gas grid operator DESFA. and even dividends from state bodies with the aim of raking in 2.5 billion euros – enough to last a month and no plan where to turn after that.
The government, led by the Radical Left SYRIZA party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has to cover 1.9 billion euros for pensions and salaries up to April 30, another 2.5 billion in May, when it must also pay 1.3 billion to the International Monetary Fund, one of its troika of lenders along with the European Union and European Central Bank.
Speaking to Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said the non-payment of debts was “out of the question” as it would “cause massive upheaval in the Greek economy.”