Athens indicates it will submit reform bills before getting creditors’ approval

The government will not back down on the issue of the main pensions and the tax-free ceiling, both of which Greece’s lenders want to be cut and lowered respectively, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis and Labour minister George Katrougalos.

“The Greek government is sovereign and it will be the one to decide how the targets of the memorandum will be met,” Tsakalotos told journalists, adding that he expects a deal with the institutions to be achieved at an emergency Eurogroup on April 25-26.

He also said the government will submit next week a tax and pension reform bill. “We’re open to dialog – if there’s a predisposition for an agreement, the review will be completed, because for Greece to turn a page, the review must conclude and a debate must start on the debt,” he said. “We are negotiating with many players that have differences between them, but our difference with the IMF does not increase.”

The finance minister also expressed optimism that a staff level agreement will be achieved by April 22, when the Eurogroup is expected to meet, or an extra Eurogroup meeting could be held on April 25-25 to close the first program review. He did clarify however that the IMF has different forecasts for both the performance of the measures and the primary surplus of 2018.

On his side, Stathakis said reports that NPLs held by banks will be sold are not true, because the legal framework has not been set up yet. He said the handling of NPLs is among the main issues discussed with the institutions and a solution will be found by April 22. “All our information converge to the direction that the deal will be closed,” he told journalists.

Asked by a journalist if there’s a “plan B”, Stathakis responded that the government is “working on the direction that the deal will conclude and all information is to that direction.”

Stathakis then went on to say that Greek negotiations and the country’s debt will be discussed at the IMF’s spring meeting in Washington on April 15-17, adding that the two sides “have not clashed”. The negotiation is a procedure that must be completed soon, as well as the debt issue, in order to promote growth, he added.

Taking his turn, Katrougalos said main pensions will be fully protected, while supplementary pensions will be readjusted by up to 10 pct. He also said a solidarity benefit paid to poor pensioners will not be cut, while 80 pct of the self-employed will pay lower social security contributions when the deal is passed.