Four primary 'thorns' appear in looming 4th review of Greek bailout

Monday, 12 February 2018 21:44

By G. Kouros

Four out of a total of 88 "prior actions" to be implemented as part of the fourth review of the current - and last - bailout are considered as the biggest "headaches" for the leftist-rightist coalition government.

Negotiations between Athens and institutional creditors are expected to begin in the coming period towards concluding what, by all accounts, will be the last bailout, a development that will ostensibly lead to a post-memorandum period but with some form of supervision still applied.

A scheduled Eurogroup on Feb. 19 is an unofficial deadline for the Greek side to resolve all pending issues left over from the third review, namely, accelerating e-auctions in the country, pushing through the red-tape-plagued Helleniko land development privatization, another sputtering privatization dealing the natural gas operator, as well as reducing the state's arrears to the private sector.

Only when the last remaining "prior actions" from the third review are resolved and some 5.7 billion euros in loan money is disbursed, will creditors' auditors return to Athens for talks aimed at concluding the fourth review - and the 88 "prior actions" entailed in the latter.

The fourth review's most prominent "obstacles", as far as the Greek government is concerned, is inaugurating an electronic platform for auctions that will also include movable assets, even for arrears to the state exceeding 500 euros.

Another politically sensitive issue for the increasingly beleaguered Tsipras government is the sale of several lignite-fired power stations owned and operated by the state-controlled utility, the Public Power Corp. (PPC).

An even more sensitive political "hot potato" is the recalculation of all pensions allocated by the state, a process essentially aimed at reducing the outlay in the budget for social security spending as of Jan. 1, 2019.

Along those lines, creditors are still waiting for a ministerial decision that cuts a long-standing low-pension monthly subsidy, known as EKAS, an austerity measure that the Tsipras government has promised to implement in 2019.