Troika to resume Greek bailout review end-January, official says

ATHENS Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:03am EST

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ATHENS Jan 16 (Reuters) - Greece's international lenders are due to return to Athens at the end of the month to resume a review of progress made under its bailout before paying out more rescue loans, a finance ministry official said on Thursday.

Officials from the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank - the "troika" - began their latest review in September but it has been interrupted three times since.

Greece's fragile coalition government is reluctant to adopt further austerity measures during a prolonged recession and with record unemployment.

The two sides have yet to agree on the size of budget savings needed to meet 2014 fiscal targets and would not do so by the time euro zone finance ministers meet on Jan. 27, Greek officials have said.

While no return date had been officially set, the troika was expected to return to Athens this week after interrupting the review in mid-December.

"We felt it was not possible to reach agreement by the Eurogroup as we would have a limited three to four days," the finance ministry official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Greece has been kept afloat by a financial lifeline from the euro zone and the IMF since 2010. It has so far received about 220 billion euros from the 240 billion for 2010-2014.

Successful conclusion of the ongoing review would release 4.9 billion euros of bailout loans but any agreement is not expected before February, until a series of thorny issues are resolved, including removing regulations that bar mass layoffs in the private sector.

Greece nearly went bankrupt last year as it struggled to meet its bailout pledges but has no pressing funding needs until May, when bond payments of about 9.3 billion euros are due.

However, speedy conclusion of the talks would pave the way for addressing how to cover an 11 billion euro funding shortfall in 2014-2015.

The country expects to receive additional debt relief later this year after official confirmation that it posted a budget surplus before debt servicing costs in 2013. (Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris)

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