BRUSSELS: Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos warned on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) that his country’s massive bailout program could fail if the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) persist in delaying the completion of a crucial review.
“We haven’t got endless time,” Tsakalotos told lawmakers at a European Parliament committee hearing in Brussels, sharply criticizing that teams from the EU and the IMF had not returned to Athens in a month.
Greece’s international creditors—the EU, European Central Bank and IMF—completed a first phase of the review on February 5, but there has been little progress since.
“That time is in danger of making a self-fulfilling prophecy that the Greek program fails, for no reason that I can understand either as an academic economist or as a minister of finance,” Tsakalotos, an Oxford-educated former professor, told MEPs.
The IMF worked with the EU on two previous bailouts for Greece since 2010 but the Washington-based lender has said it will not participate in the third rescue plan without credible reforms and an EU agreement to ease Athens’ debt burden.
A major sticking point is the pension reforms planned by Greece’s leftist government which the IMF has found insufficient.
The IMF also questions Greece’s budget estimations, a crucial piece of data that helps determine if Athens has delivered on the austerity reforms promised in its 86-billion-euro bailout program.
“On the fiscal gap we are very close to the European institutions . . . We are quite a distance away from the estimations of the IMF,” the minister said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday said the IMF, led by Christine Lagarde, must “return to reality” in its dealings with Greece.
The Tsipras government has faced a wave of protests in Greece as anger mounts over the biting reforms demanded by the creditors.
Tsakalotos will discuss those issues at talks with his eurozone counterparts in Brussels on Monday, where Germany’s fiscal hardliner Wolfgang Schaeuble and the IMF play a determining role.
In these meetings, “Greece is like an antelope trying to avoid being stamped on by the two giants,” Tsakalotos said, without explicitly naming who he meant.
Greece in July agreed to the huge three-year program after six months of harrowing negotiations with its European partners that nearly saw Athens thrown out of the euro.