Stournaras to meet troika on Sunday to conclude round of talks

The Greek government is expected to wrap up on Sunday its first round of talks with troika representatives in Athens on the 11.5 billion euros of spending cuts for the next two years. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is due to meet on Sunday afternoon with the troika officials to brief them on the progress in finalizing the savings.

The final version of the measures, however, will be agreed in early September, when the troika will also finish compiling the review of the Greek program.

Among the subjects that Stournaras will discuss with the representatives of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund are where else Greece will find more than 200 million in savings so it can avoid cuts to “special” salaries in the civil service and how it will make up a shortfall in revenues that would be caused by allowing Greeks to pay their income tax in instalments.
Sources told Kathimerini that the government has yet to agree with the troika on its plan for income tax to be paid in nine or 10 instalments.

The Greek side had wanted this option to apply to anyone earning under 100,000 euros, while the troika has suggested the ceiling be set at 60,000. If the instalment scheme applies, the government hopes to collect 70 percent of this year's income tax by February.

It is not clear if Samaras's wish for low pensions not to be cut will be fulfilled. The government had been aiming to cap pensions at a maximum of 2,400-2,600 euros but there are doubts about whether this would stand up in court.
Given that the savings from such a measure would be fairly minimal, the government may look to trim pensions below 1,000 euros. There will definitely be cuts to all pensions above 1,400 euros.

Despite tense talks on Wednesday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras managed to secure the support of his coalition partners - PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis - who had demanded earlier that the measures be staggered over four years instead of two.

The premier’s logic - that Athens secures a favorable review from the troika to safeguard further rescue loans and its position in the eurozone - prevailed. But Samaras is said to be keen to ensure the new cuts do not bring further pain to low-income Greeks.

Samaras is to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Francois Hollande on August 24 and 25.


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