BY Fraser Tennant
Beleaguered Greek prime minister Alexis Tspiras has announced that he expects international lenders to return to Greece soon to conclude a review of how the country has complied with reforms agreed as part of a eurozone bailout.
The bailout, signed up to by Greece in August 2015, was worth in the region of €86bn (£67.2bn) and allowed the country to stay within the eurozone as well as avoiding the much-discussed and much-feared ‘Grexit'.
During an interview with Greece’s Star TV channel earlier this week, Mr Tspiras (who possesses a small parliamentary majority) stated his belief that official lenders will “return in the first 10 days of March” to conclude the review so that he can begin debt relief talks designed to assuage the Greek public and encourage investment.
The plans of the prime minister’s left-wing Syriza party have been frustrated thus far by the reluctance of lenders to return due to disagreements over the likely size of Greece’s fiscal shortfall by 2018. The Greek government says 1 percent of GDP, EU lenders say 3 percent and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a gap of at least 4.5 percent.
Calling on the likes of the IMF to “return to realism”, Mr Tspiras added that there had to be agreement among lenders before Greece could continue with its recovery programme, which includes tackling the crippling effects of corporate tax avoidance and widespread corruption.
"The Greek government is implementing the fiscal consolidation program abiding by its commitment,” said Dimitris Papadimoulis, vice president of the European Parliament. “It is putting forth a broad reform agenda, including media, public administration and pension reform, wrapping up the chaos previous governments left behind after 30 years of corruption and clientelism. In this respect, the fight against tax evasion is crucial and it is evolving dynamically.
“The firm determination of the Greek government to pull Greece outside the financial struggle is proved by a specific program destined to provide millions of citizens with health coverage and basic safety nets. This is of paramount importance for the government and one of the major, critical aspects for bringing back, step by step, social justice.
“Following Greece's very important progress, the institutions should also implement what has been agreed and conclude with the first review of the program as soon as possible.”
The Greek MEP also stated that the conclusion of the bailout review is vital so that sky-rocketing unemployment can be addressed and growth brought back, allowing Greece to leave behind one of the hardest periods in its history.