Mon, May 30, 2011 - Page 10 News List

IMF denies Greece is missing targets

UNDER PRESSURE:Greece’s finance minister also denied the report in Germany’s ‘Der Spiegel’, while European officials asked the country to step up its privatizations

Reuters, ATHENS and BERLIN

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks in Athens on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

The IMF yesterday dismissed reports that an international inspection team had found that Greece has missed all its fiscal targets.

“Recent media reports claiming knowledge of the findings of the review mission are untrue,” an IMF spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.

“Our discussions with the authorities continue, are making good progress and are expected to conclude soon,” she said.

Weekly Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday that the IMF, the European Commision and the European Central Bank (ECB) asserted in their report to be presented this week that Greece had missed all fiscal targets agreed under its bailout plan.

Greek Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou denied Greece failed on all its fiscal targets, a condition for getting a key, fifth tranche of a 110 billion euro (US$157 billion) bailout.

“Negotiations continue and will be completed in the next few days. We have every reason to believe the report will be positive for the country,” Papaconstantinou told Greek Mega TV.

However, pressure continued to pile on the socialist government, which saw its popularity fall behind its conservative opposition for the first time since 2009 elections in the wake of harsh austerity measures.

Echoing earlier views from the IMF, ECB board member Juergen Stark said Greece’s privatization program could raise six times more than the 50 billion euros planned.

“The Greek government has shares in listed companies, it owns real estate. Experts estimate the sales potential [from privatizations] at up to 300 billion euros,” Stark told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

EU officials have asked Athens to step up privatizations urgently and suggested setting up a trustee institution to help oversee the process, similar to the body that privatised East German companies after the fall of communism.

However, the EU has not asked to play a major role in the asset sales and was only offering its expertise, Papaconstantinou said on Saturday.

A eurogroup working committee has been tasked to research how a “soft” Greek debt reprofiling might work and whether it was possible to have one without triggering a credit event, Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees De Jager said on Saturday.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also weighed in on Saturday, telling Greece the only way it could exit its debt crisis was through fiscal consolidation and by improving competitiveness.

“If there was an easier way out of the crisis, we would have chosen it, but there isn’t,” Barroso said in an article in Kathimerini newspaper.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said there was still common ground with opposition parties on austerity policies after failing on Friday to broker a consensus for the government’s austerity program and reforms.

“I believe there are several points we converge on,” he told reporters, a day after opposition parties rejected his call for backing. “I will not stop seeking consensus. I hope several political forces respond so that we help ourselves exit this crisis in a faster and stronger way.”

The opposition has rejected -proposed tax increases to help reduce the budget deficit, arguing instead for tax cuts to revive economic growth.

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