Finance minister George Papaconstantinou held a meeting at noon Wednesday with a team of experts from the interna-tional ratings firm Fitch, which is evaluating the course of the Greek economy and progress in planned structural reforms, aiming at a re-evaluation of Greece's macroeconomic prospects.

 

The meeting took place at the request of the rating agency, whose experts will also be meeting with the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) to discuss growth data and other macroeconomic indicators, and with officials of the General State Accounts Office and the Public Debt Management Agency on the course of execution of the budget and the country's borrowing status.

Similar meetings will be held with a team of Moody's experts expected in Athens by the end of the year.

Fitch's is currently the only ratings firm that has maintained Greek sovereign bonds at a BBB- rating, whereas Moody's and Standard & Poor's have downgraded Greek bonds to junk status.

 

Finance Ministry officials say that there has been an improvement abroad regarding the Greek economy, which increases prospects of upgrading its macroeconomic prospects, although not before mid-2011.

Papaconstantinou met later on Wednesday with labour and social security minister Louka Katseli, his last in a series of consultations with government ministers before the drafting of the ministries' budgets and the 2011 general state budget.

In statements after the meeting, Katseli suggested that spending cuts of up to 1.5 billion euros might be achieved through the cooperation of the various ministries involved.

The new budget is due to be tabled in parliament on November 18, and will take into account an upward revision of the country's deficit for the period 2006-2009 expected to be released by Eurostat on November 15, the day that a team of European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' inspectors will arrive in Athens to draft their regular report ahead of approval of the third tranche of the EU-IMF support loan to Greece.

The government has said that the main emphasis in the 2011 budget will be to cut back state spending without further cuts to wages and pensions or increases in taxation above those already agreed on.