Greece to Press On with Austerity to Clinch Loans

Greece to Press On with Austerity to Clinch Loans

Greece is to redouble its efforts to reach a deal with its creditors so that the loans it needs are handed over, the country’s finance minister said in an interview published Saturday.

Stournaras has been holding talks since the end of July with the so-called troika, made up of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on controversial new austerity measures for 2013 and 2014.

The troika have made agreement to these measures, estimated to save 13.5 billion euros, nine billion of them for 2013 alone, a condition for releasing 31.2 billion euros in loans.

This sum would come from a total loan of 140 billion dollars promised in February but held up since the political crisis in the spring and then long negotiations with the Greek government.

It is aimed at recapitalising Geek banks with liquidity problems.

The money is “vital” for Greece and is “crucial to get the economy moving again” and “meeting recurrent expenditure” such as pensions and wages, according to government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou interviewed on public television.

On Friday Samaras said in Brussels he was confident about the payment of the next installment by “the end of November” and about the adoption by the Greek parliament of new savings, while issuing a reminder that the country’s reserves are only adequate until November 16.

He said he was pleased by the “positive” statement by euro zone leaders who hailed Greece’s achievements in carrying out reforms aimed at getting its economy back on track and urged Athens to keep up efforts to stay in the eurozone.

While agreement has been reached that most of the savings will come from cuts in wages and pensions, talks are deadlocked on the steps to increase labour market flexibility demanded by the troika.

The troika representatives left Athens Wednesday but their technical teams stayed on to settle the unresolved issues, a ministerial source said.

The head of the IME, an organisation representing small and medium-sized businesses, Saturday blamed the three-monthly visits by the troika for a loss of almost two billion euros for his members.

The visits, to discuss austerity measures with the government “affect the psychology of consumers and lead to a drop in demand and turnover in retail trade,” he said.