Coalition to focus efforts on gaining more adjustment time

The coalition government is to make asking for one or two more years to meet its fiscal and reforms targets the main goal in its upcoming negotiations with European and International Monetary Fund officials, the leaders of the three parties in the new administration decided on Monday. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis traveled to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s home in Kifissia, northern Athens, yesterday afternoon to hold talks with the conservative leader, who remains housebound after his eye operation just over a week ago. Sources said that the coalition government believes it needs the extra time beyond the original deadline at the end of 2014 because a growing number of Greeks are finding it difficult to pay their burgeoning tax bills. Some officials fear that if greater fiscal pressure is exerted now, it could lead to a number of citizens simply being unable to pay their dues.

In return for asking for more time for the fiscal adjustment program, the government is to offer the faster merger of public sector organizations and the sale of state assets. Samaras had been keen to announce the privatization of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) but there are still a number of legal problems to overcome before the government can be in a position to do this. Instead, the coalition may look to lease the license for Athens International Airport. Monday’s leaders’ meeting was attended by Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, his deputy Christos Staikouras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Sources said it was decided that Greece would not push at this stage for its 50-billion-euro bank recapitalization to be funded directly by the European Stability Mechanism, rather than by public debt. The government believes the eurozone would not be willing to accept such a move, as proposed for Spanish and Irish banks, at this stage but that the issue may come back into play at a later stage.  

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