May 19, 2013
Greece to front-load austerity, troika to return
Greece pledged to bring forward painful austerity measures on Tuesday, convincing international lenders to return to Athens early next week for talks that it hopes will secure the aid it needs to avert bankruptcy.
After a two-hour phone call with senior officials from the "troika" of EU and IMF emergency lenders, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was set to present his proposals to the Greek cabinet on Wednesday.
Having consistently watched Greece miss its targets, the International Monetary Fund and European Union made clear last week that their patience was running thin, and warned Athens to stop dithering or risk seeing its 110 billion euro ($150 billion) loan deal cut off.
A Finance Ministry official said Greece had agreed to bring forward measures from the so-called "mid-term plan" in which it has committed to slash its budget deficit through 2014 and sell some 50 billion euros in state assets.
"Some measures will be brought forward. The main targets (deficit and debt) will not change," a ministry official said after the teleconference, on condition of anonymity.
The ministry said the call -- the second in two days -- had made "satisfactory progress" and teams of experts would push on with finalising the 2011 budget and working through a fiscal plan to 2014.
The IMF/EU mission's plan to return to Athens closes a tense chapter from earlier this month when inspectors abruptly left Greece in a disagreement over the extent of its budget slippage and what Athens needed do to make good on its pledges.
"The talks will continue this coming weekend in Washington DC, where Mr Venizelos is going to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund," the Finance Ministry said.
The ministry official said he was personally confident Greece would clinch the release of the 8 billion euro ($11 billion) aid tranche that it needs by next month to avoid running out of cash.