ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of people protested in central Athens on Wednesday against new austerity measures that the Greek government and its lenders have been discussing in an effort to conclude a drawn-out bailout review and unlock funds for the country.
Some 2,000 people took part in the rally, organized by left-wing trade union PAME, outside the Hilton hotel where government ministers and technocrats discussed reforms including cuts in pensions and income tax breaks.
“Those measures should stop because they will burden the workers,” said Panagiotis Ntontis, 55, a civil servant. “We want salaries to live the life that we deserve.”
Athens and mission chiefs representing euro zone countries and the International Monetary Fund resumed a review of the country’s reform program on Tuesday.
The review has dragged on for months, due to differences over labor and energy reforms and because of a rift between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund over Greece’s fiscal goals and prospects next year - when the bailout expires - and beyond.
To help break the stalemate, Greece last week agreed to pre-legislate economic reforms, including lowering the tax-free threshold, which will take effect after the start of 2019, the year parliamentary elections are due.
The leftist-led government of Alexis Tsipras which has been sagging in recent polls has promised relief measures to offset the social impact of the new reforms.
Athens and its official creditors exchanged initial proposals on the measures on Wednesday, said a finance ministry official on condition of anonymity.
“We are making progress in some of them, they are asking more info for some others and we disagree on a few other issues,” the official said.
Greece wants to conclude a staff-level agreement with the lenders by the next meeting of euro zone finance ministers in March.
It has no significant obligations until the third quarter, but if rescue loans are not disbursed in time it will face an elevated risk of defaulting on debt repayments worth about 7.5 billion euros ($7.95 billion) in July.
Reporting by Gina Kalovyrna and Alkis Konstantinidis; Editing by Dominic Evans