• Greece tells agencies to turn in reserves


    ATHENS: The Greek government on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) issued a decree ordering all public agencies to turn in their financial reserves to the treasury in order to meet payments as the state coffers are emptying.

    “With this act, the government hopes to cover urgent needs of the state amounting to three billion euros for the next 15 days,” said the decree, which still needs adoption by the parliament.

    The decree listed the “urgent needs” as: “1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in wages, 850 million euros in social insurance funds, 200 million euros in interest on debt and on May 12, 746 million in repayment to the IMF.”

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s cash-strapped government had launched an appeal in March for public agencies to turn over their reserves on a voluntary basis.

    Some, like the employment agency OAED and the region of Athens, have transferred tens of millions of euros.

    But the call now looks set to become compulsory, and will also affect local authorities.

    The money is to be transferred to the Bank of Greece where it would be held on a special account and earn an interest of 2.5 percent. If necessary, it can be invested in certain securities.

    Greece is struggling to unlock some 7.2 billion euros in bailout funds as Athens and its international creditors have so far been unable to find an agreement on the reforms that need to be undertaken in exchange for the rescue package.

    The funds were due to be paid out to Athens in September but negotiations stumbled with the previous government headed by conservative leader Antonis Samaras and talks deteriorated further after radical anti-austerity leader Tsipras took the helm in January.

    Talks, meanwhile, were continuing in Paris between Greece’s creditors—the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—to thrash out a deal ahead of an April 24 gathering of the Eurogroup finance ministers in Riga, Latvia.

    A Greek source who asked to remain anonymous told Agence France-Presse that “the negotiations which will continue are going forward in a good atmosphere,” with an outcome depending on political goodwill.

    Negotiations between debt-wracked Greece and its creditors have recently seen “a bit more momentum” than previously, the IMF’s representative in Europe told a German newspaper Monday.

    “For a few days, there’s been a bit more momentum in the negotiations between the three institutions and the Greek government,” Poul Thomsen said in an interview with Handelsblatt business daily, referring to the IMF, EU and ECB.

    “That’s a good development and is cause for hope,” he said, adding however that much work remained to be done.

    “We are making progress, but we are far from the goal. The negotiations must clearly have more momentum if a timely agreement is to succeed,” he warned.

    A German finance ministry spokeswoman later said the “dialogue process” needed to be sharply stepped up, saying the ball was in Athens’ court.

    Greece was told at weekend IMF-World bank meetings that it needed to urgently deliver a detailed fiscal and debt plan to its official lenders.



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