Parliament was expected to approve a multi-bill of “prior actions”; “junior partners” push for a reshuffle.
Athens.- Amid a tense debate on a multi-bill of “prior actions” demanded by Greece’s troika of foreign lenders, which will culminate in a vote in Parliament on Sunday, the government is hoping next week to get the green light for the disbursement of further rescue funding as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras mulls a reshuffle to bring some order to his turbulent Cabinet.
Athens hopes that officials convening at a Euro Working Group in Brussels on Monday will approve the release of a 2.8-billion-euro tranche of aid that had been due in March though it is quite likely that a final decision will be put back to May 16 when eurozone finance ministers are to decide on whether to approve a 6-billion-euro installment of aid for Greece.
Apart from concerns about clinching funding, Samaras faces the task of imposing some order in his Cabinet where inter-ministerial spats last week fueled a mini-government crisis. Although government officials have played down the prospect of an imminent reshuffle, Kathimerini understands that a shakeup could be carried out immediately after Orthodox Easter. It is likely that only a few ministers will be switched around with the most prominent, and closest to Samaras, virtually certain to keep their posts. It remained unclear what would become of Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis and Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, who clashed over an amendment that would have prevented public sector contract workers from receiving their salaries while appealing decisions to terminate their employment.
The premier must also push his ministers to implement new measures with the streamlining of the civil service expected to meet with the toughest resistance. The troika intends to conduct quarterly inspections on the progress of Greece’s civil service overhaul, Kathimerini understands.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will also have to get started on overhauling a cumbersome tax collection system ahead of the troika’s anticipated return to Athens in June.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras seemed confident that Greece’s economy will see recovery, in an interview appearing in the Greek Sunday newspaper ‘Typos tis Kyriakis’.
“We are on the right track,” the minister said, noting that the country was 2.5 billion euros ‘ahead’ of targets but stressing that this was no time for complacency.
The finance minister warmly praised all three party leaders in Greece’s coalition government, especially Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and stressed that the effort to get Greece’s finances into order was collective.
“As finance minister I am the programme’s keeper, I cannot consent when we have agreed that the deficit will be ‘a’ with measures that will make this ‘a-plus’. I must take equivalent measures or my signature counts for nothing,” he said.
With regard to VAT for food catering services, the minister said this was an issue raised with Greece’s creditors a long time ago but Greece needed to provide reliable estimates of what the measure will cost in terms of revenue, in order to convince the troika to agree.
“We have handed over studies carried out by independent analysts, by the General Accounting Office, [Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras] has given his estimates that the loss will be of the order of 80 to 85 million euros and that we consider, in fact, that there will be collateral benefits from this reduction so that there is finally no cost. They said that they want to see and study them and discuss it again in June,” Stournaras said.
The leaders of the two smaller parties in Greece’s coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, have both told the ‘Realnews on Sunday’ newspaper that they would like to see changes in the structure and functioning of the government.
Venizelos noted that the situation in the country appeared to be coming under control, while it was becoming accepted internationally that Greece must not carry out additional fiscal austerity measures, so that the central issue was now to “highlight the national reconstruction plan as a national strategic target”.
“The coalition government of the three parties must serve this aim, both in policy and in function. Both as a political framework and as a formation,” he added.
Kouvelis noted that the operation of the government was linked to the efficiency of the government’s work and stressed that it was imperative “to immediately solve any functional problems that have been observed and recorded,” adding that the creation of an informal coordinating body would be useful.
“In this framework, we need to see what changes must be made to government structure, exclusively based on criteria of merit. The extended discussion and rumour about a reshuffle harms the government’s efficiency,” he said.
Temporary court rulings will remain as an institution but steps will be taken to prevent their excessive use, Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis said in an interview appearing the Sunday issue of the Greek newspaper “Eleftherotypia”.
The minister said a measure to this effect will be tabled after the Easter holiday, while he was strongly critical of those drawing up the draft legislation he had refused to support the previous week, outlining the reasons for his refusal. Among others, he noted that the wording would have affected employees in the private sector.
He also strongly disagreed with the prospect of merging the justice and public order ministries, saying that “the thought alone of such a prospect is frightening.”