World Economy

Greece Optimistic of Bailout Deal

Disabled people with their families march during an  anti-government rally in central Athens on Friday, Dec. 2.Disabled people with their families march during an  anti-government rally in central Athens on Friday, Dec. 2.

Greece expects to reach an initial agreement with its official creditors at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday on the fiscal targets and reforms it needs to adopt to conclude its latest bailout review, a government official said.

Talks on two other aspects of the review, namely debt relief and primary surplus targets after 2018, when Greece’s bailout program ends, are expected to continue, and both issues will probably be discussed at another Eurogroup meeting, Reuters reported.

“We believe that all issues will be resolved by the end of December,” the official added.

Greece received €240 billion ($255.9 billion) from two earlier bailouts and is due to get 86 billion under the current third program, which is being reviewed for the second time.

It needs to keep passing reviews to continue receiving funds to help tackle its debt which, at about 180% of GDP, is the highest in the eurozone.

Athens wants to be included in the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program of quantitative easing by March, the official said. The left-led government has said that this would help Greece return to bond markets at the end of 2017 or early in 2018.

In their discussions on the bailout review, Athens and its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders are at odds over labor and energy reforms and over the measures needed to plug a projected fiscal gap in 2018.

The EU and the IMF disagree on Greece’s fiscal targets beyond 2018.

The IMF, which has yet to decide whether it will participate in Greece’s bailout program financially, says Greece cannot achieve its medium-term target for a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP unless it is granted significant debt relief and adopts extra austerity measures.

To approve the target after 2018, the IMF wants Athens to legislate now for cuts in pension spending and to reduce its tax-free threshold for after 2018, the official said.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said this week that Greece cannot accept more austerity after 2018.

 Austerity Looms

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23% with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against”.

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