ATHENS – Greece’s coalition government is forging ahead with a plan to let taxpayers pay overdue bills in installments, ignoring international lenders who rejected it.
Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, with his party reeling in polls, will proceed with the scheme to give taxpayers up to 100 payments with reduced penalties and interest, media reports said.
The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said it will cost about one billion euros in lost revenues and add to the country’s budget gap, but the government disagreed.
“The discussion with the Troika is ongoing and covers a wide range of issues,” the Finance Ministry said, adding that the legislation passed last month would be implemented.
That stance will put Greece at adds with the Troika just as envoys from the lenders are due to return to Athens to check progress on long-delayed reforms. The lenders could hold up the next installment of what’s left from 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts that began in 2010.
It could also put a crimp in Samaras’ hopes to take an early exit from memoranda with the Troika as Samaras wants to avoid having to impose any more of the austerity measures they demanded that drove down the popularity of his government, which includes the coalition partner the PASOK Socialists.
Sources in Brussels told Kathimerini that the country’s lenders are not willing to make concessions on key reforms, including pensions and labor laws, to help wrap up the review.
The Troika wants the review completed without condition, even if this means Greece having to extend its bailout at the end of the year rather than exiting with a precautionary credit line.
Eurozone officials are also insistent on the IMF retaining a role in Greece after the end of the year. Kathimerini understands that Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland have been pushing for the IMF to be involved.
“Nobody proposed doing it without the IMF,” an EU official told Kathimerini on condition of anonymity.