By Renee Maltezou
Greece has sent its creditors a long-awaited list of reforms with a pledge to produce a small budget surplus this year in the hope that it will unlock badly needed cash, Greek government officials said on Friday.
The European Union and IMF lenders, informally called the Brussels Group, will start discussing the list later on Friday, a euro zone official said, although a Greek official said the examination would begin on Saturday. Their approval, followed by the blessing of euro zone finance ministers, will be needed for Athens to unfreeze further aid and stave off bankruptcy.
Athens has not indicated whether the latest list will contain a more far-reaching reform programme than a previous list of seven reforms on broad issues ranging from tax evasion to public sector reforms, which failed to impress lenders.
The new list includes measures to boost state revenues by 3 billion euros this year, but will not include any “recessionary measures” like wage or pension cuts, a government official said.
The list estimates a primary budget surplus of 1.5 pct for 2015 – below the 3 per cent target included in the country’s existing EU/IMF bailout – and growth of 1.4 per cent, the official said.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing government has previously said the list will include measures to improve investor sentiment, boost tax revenues, and judicial reform.
The government is also expected to address some form of pension reform, though it has already excluded any attempt to raise the retirement age or other sensitive measures that would be viewed as cutting pension payouts for austerity-hit Greeks.
It is also expected to include labour reform aimed at fighting the increase in unregistered workers, and also include commitments to allow privatisations to proceed.
The government has rowed back on pledges made in its early days to roll back asset sales, but it still wants to retain management control after selling off stakes.
Athens needs to show its creditors it is committed to structural reforms and that the measures will not derail its budget. Though Athens remains at risk of bankruptcy without fresh aid, publicly the mood in talks between Greece and its lenders has improved in recent days after weeks of acrimony that had raised the risk of a Greek euro zone exit.
France’s Finance Minister Michel Sapin earlier urged Greece on Friday to present detailed reform proposals to allow for a deal with its euro zone peers.
The reforms list submission came as Greece’s government denied a report in Germany’s Bild newspaper that its outspoken finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was considering resigning.
A prominent figure in the Greek government who has won fans and angered interlocutors with sharp-tongued attacks against austerity, Varoufakis has kept a markedly lower profile in recent days with fewer interviews and public appearances.
But he took to Twitter to deny the reports, saying: “Every time the negotiations heat up, some new rumour of my resignation, demise etc. springs up. Somewhat amusing…”