ATHENS – Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ uneasy coalition government is being squeezed by international lenders to stop dragging its feet and finish some 700 undone reforms, including another pension cut, before the envoys return to check the books and progress.
Technical teams from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-Europeana Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) are set to return on Nov. 4 but they want an answer why there hasn’t been more work done, particularly on the pension reform Samaras wants to avoid, having vowed he would never, ever again in his life implement more austerity measures on beleaguered Greeks.
Reuters reported that the government has sent a letter to the EU and IMF making its case to take the demand for merging of supplementary pension funds to be taken off the table. Big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings have decimated support for Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner, the PASOK Socialists.
A source with knowledge of the Troika’s positions told Kathimerini that it is unlikely Greece’s lenders will allow Athens to ignore some of its commitments.
“The IMF officials cannot go to the Fund’s executive board and recommend the disbursement of the loan installment if the Greek government has not done anything to fulfill some of the memorandum pledges,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to Troika sources, Greece has so far completed only around half of the bailout commitments that remain, with little progress having been made since the summer.
The government is hoping to improve on this in the days to come but the key for concluding the current program review is agreement on what Greece’s lenders call “structural benchmarks.”
These benchmarks include further changes to the pension system, making mass dismissals easier, measures to close a fiscal gap the Troika estimates at some 2 billion euros and overhauling the wage structure in the civil service.
Greek pensioners have been protesting benefit cuts for more than 4 1/2 years to no avail as the government has continued to slash payments for the most vulnerable in society while exempting Parliament workers and the politically protected.
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