Washington, DC.- Greece’s loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expires in March 2016, the Fund’s spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday.
Asked during a regular press conference in Washington, Rice said the IMF has not been notified on an official level by the Greek government of a “possible early termination” of Greece’s fiscal programme at the end of the current year.
“As far as I know the issue was never raised,” Rice said, adding the emphasis is now placed on the programme’s sixth review and that the issue of an early exit for Greece will not be discussed in the upcoming meetings of the troika of Greece’s lenders with Greek officials.
He also said the participation of countries in the IMF’s programmes is voluntary.
Asked whether Greece could proceed with its reform programme alone, he said the IMF wants to do what’s best in cooperation with the Greek government, so that the people of Greece can exit the crisis “as soon as possible.”
Rice reiterated the Fund’s position that it has seen progress in some areas of the programme and that emphasis is now placed on the new review.
Outlining the upcoming milestones, Rice said an IMF team, headed by Rishi Goyal, will begin talks in Athens on “key issues” – the 2015 budget and non-performing loans – on September 30, and that “later in autumn” the “full IMF team” will return to Greece (after the annual IMF meeting in Washington) for the sixth programme review.
Asked if Poul Thomsen would be part of the team, Rice said Thomsen has been appointed Director of the IMF’s European department and his plans do not include a trip to Athens, adding he’s ready to help if needed.
Commenting on a recent interview of the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, where she claimed she received “threats” against her life when she spoke of tax evasion in Greece, Rice said threats appeared in social networks a few years ago, after which Lagarde strengthened her security measures.
He also confirmed Lagarde received a letter by Greek justice minister requesting for more information on possible threats received.
Asked to comment on Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos’ view that the IMF’s interest rate paid by Greece on its loan is higher than the rate offered by markets, Rice said he was not ready to comment on the issue and promised to reply soon.