ATHENS – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ demand that cities, towns and state enterprises turn over all their money so he can make a debt payment to international lenders and pay obligations is being fought by Mayors who said they won’t comply.
Greece is running out of cash fast while locked in stalled talks with international lenders who won’t release a 7.2-billion euro installment because the government refuses to administer reforms.
Locked out of markets because of prohibitive interest rates and with depositors yanking billions of euros out of bank accounts, the government has ordered all state cash apart from pensions be deposited in the Bank of Greece and promised to return it with 2.5 percent interest.
In a tense meeting of the Union of Municipalities (KEDE), the Mayors said they would refuse until meeting with Tsipras.
They bitterly criticized Alternative Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas for the government’s action in issuing a Presidential decree which would force them to turn over their money, leaving them unable to operate and fearing it wouldn’t be returned and be lost in a one-time payment to the troika.
KEDE’s executive board approved a resolution calling on all municipalities to refuse to hand over the cash until a general meeting.
The only dissension was from Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris who said he understood why the government needs the money even though he didn’t like the decree demanding it.
Mardas assured the Mayors that they would not lose their cash and said it’s needed so the government pay its debt and meet its obligation.
“We did not want to catch you by surprise but I assure you there was no other choice,” he said, adding that the government could gain 2.5 billion euros to cover payments until the end of May.
“I want this 2.5 billion euros to cover any needs that may occur, I repeat, taking into account the worst case scenarios and the needs for May,” he told Star TV adding that he was confident that Greece and its lenders would reach a deal.
The government is so desperate it has also ordered state enterprises to turn over all their money. Mardas said earlier that the government needs 350-400 million euros to meet obligations, including salaries and pensions, this month.