Beleaguered Greece was in crisis talks with its EU-IMF creditors for a second day yesterday as it prepared to auction more debt and sought to secure loan funds to avert bankruptcy next month.
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was to hold a conference call with head auditors from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank at 4pm, with debt-hit Athens under pressure to tighten austerity and speed up asset sales.
Also yesterday, the Greek debt management agency will attempt to raise 1.25 billion euros (US$1.7 billion) in a sale of three-month treasury bills to bring some badly-needed cash into the country’s coffers.
Unless Athens can come to an arrangement with the “troika” of creditors, its reserves to pay pensions and wages will run out next month.
The first round of talks with the head auditors on Monday was “productive and substantive,” the Greek Finance Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
Greece is under pressure to plug a budget hole of more than 2 billion euros under the terms of a 110 billion euro EU-IMF bailout contracted last year.
The government last week announced a new hefty property tax and is expected to make further cuts in the country’s massive state payroll after Venizelos said there was “surplus” staff in the civil service.
The IMF has accused Greece of wasting time and falling behind target with a long-delayed asset sale, while the European Commission is urging Athens to implement the necessary budget cuts and reforms.
Greece denied a report yesterday that it was considering holding a referendum on the country’s membership in the eurozone. The Kathimerini daily wrote yesterday, citing unnamed sources, that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was considering calling for a referendum on whether Greece should continue to tackle its debt crisis within the eurozone or by exiting the single currency.
Asked if the referendum would be about staying in the eurozone, Greek government Deputy spokesman Angelos Tolkas said: “No. We haven’t discussed such an issue, definitely not.”
He said the government had put to parliament on Monday a bill aimed at allowing the country to hold referenda, but without specifying any issue.