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ATHENS – Setting the stage for a likely confrontation, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos said they will not accede to demands from international lenders on five critical reforms the leaders deem too politically sensitive with their parties fading, including on pensions.

The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) has insisted that 19 – out of some 700 – unfinished reforms are key and must be accomplished before its envoys return to check on progress or the lenders agree to an early exit from the bailout terms that Samaras is keen to have.

Greece has been told to implement those so the current review of the Greek program can be completed before the end of the year and let the Eurozone provide Greece with a precautionary credit line to exit its bailout.

Samaras wanted that before a February, 2015 vote on election of a new Greek President that the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) is trying to block so as to force early national elections with polls showing it’s leading New Democracy and its coalition partner, Venizelos’ PASOK Socialists.

The coalition drew a red line around a dispute over the size of 2015 budget gap, relaxing restrictions on mass firings in the private sector, increases to the Value Added Tax, lifting of restrictions on foreclosures of primary residences.

But the biggest hot button for the government is the Troika’ insistence on further changes in to pension benefits that have already been cut about 30 percent, as well as 38 percent reductions in lump sums which the country’s highest court has deemed unconstitutional only to have Samaras ignore it.

The Troika now reportedly wants the retirement ages to increase for exempt groups and for the minimum pension not to be applicable until 20 years of work, not the current 15. The government gives special benefits to select pensioners while going after others with bigger cuts.

Katimerini said that Troika officials referenced a report by the Center of Economic Planning and Research (KEPE), which shows that only 21 percent of Greeks insured with the IKA social security fund retire at 65 and most stop working earlier to cash in at earlier ages, some retiring in their 30’s.

An unnamed EU official said that Troika officials may return to Greece as early as this weekend and that there might be “limited flexibility” on some reforms.

Those could be shifted to next year, when Greece will still be bound by the terms of its credit line agreement even if it accepts no further funding from the IMF. That assumes that Samaras is still in power and that early elections don’t bring SYRIZA to power, which has vowed to revise the terms or renege on 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts.

The post Samaras, Venizelos Wave Off Five Key Troika Reform Demands appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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