(Adds EU/IMF statement)
ATHENS, July 16 (Reuters) - Inspectors from Greece’s EU/IMF lenders said on Wednesday they had concluded a short, interim checkup of the country’s performance under its bailout and will return for a more comprehensive audit in late September.
The scheduled visit was an unusually low-profile one to review the pace of reforms and lay the ground for the more crucial audit of fiscal targets and funding gaps in September, when talks on further debt relief are also expected to begin.
“The meetings were productive, and it was agreed that the full mission should continue discussions in the second half of September,” the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund said in a joint statement.
Speaking to reporters in Athens, a senior Greek finance ministry official confirmed the inspectors’ week-long visit had gone smoothly. “We had constructive talks, they wanted to take stock of where we are in terms of the (bailout) programme,” said the official, who declined to be named.
The two sides held talks on privatisations, structural reforms to make the economy more competitive, tackling bad loans that are burdening Greek banks, and the state of public finances, although no major decisions were taken.
EU officials in recent weeks have warned that Greece is slowing down on the reform front after the opposition, anti-bailout Syriza party won the country’s EU election in May.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has also promised austerity-weary Greeks gradual tax relief as Athens expects to post another budget surplus before debt servicing costs, but that has not yet won the backing of EU/IMF lenders.
Athens needs to push through a set of six reforms, including merging auxiliary pension funds, to qualify for its next tranche of 1 billion euros in aid but so far has only managed one - passing a law to privatise major power utility PPC.
“August will be a month of tough work for us, there is a list of issues that we need to speed up,” the official said. “There are a few remaining milestones.”
Bailed out twice, to the tune of 240 billion euros, Greece’s fortunes have revived sharply in recent months, helping it raise 4.5 billion euros by selling bonds since April after a four-year exile from debt markets.
But analysts say the country is not out of the woods yet, given fragile political stability and the prospect of early elections later this year or next year. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos in Athens and Anna Yukhananov in Washington, Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Catherine Evans)