Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis met once again yesterday to discuss privatisations and reforms, the merging of state agencies, the acceleration of public works and the release of funds. Discussion continues today at 6 pm.
Agreeing the details of the 2013-14 cuts is one of the goals the coalition government is aiming to achieve in the next few weeks to secure a positive review by the troika. The three leaders aim to further convince the troika that the government is fully committed to pursuing necessary reforms and implementing the fiscal adjustment programme.
Finance Ministry sources say the aim is for the measures for this year to be finalized by the end of the coming week while the package for the next two years will be developed over the coming weeks and finalized in early September in time for a scheduled Eurogroup summit on September 3.
According to Kathimerini, the coalition government will probably abandon its intention to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67, although this would have saved EUR 1 billion, and instead remove the adjustment period introduced in the 2010 pension reform. This would mean that nobody could retire under the age of 65 from next year. Also, government officials have decided against cutting just pensions above EUR 1,400, which form the minority of retirement payments in Greece, but to reduce all pensions by about 5 to 6 percent. This would mean that someone earning a pension of EUR 700 would lose about EUR 35 per month.
Sources said the switch is a result of cuts to large pensions not providing enough savings. The ceiling for the combined total of basic and supplementary pensions is currently EUR 3,690. Lowering it to EUR 2,500 would only save EUR 25 million. There is also concern that the reduction would be successfully challenged in court.
Meanwhile, coalition leaders yesterday agreed on the 10 public assets, which are considered mature to be put up for privatization and discussed the speeding up of dozens of legislative and administrative actions that need to be taken to remove obstacles to this and future rounds of sales.
According to financial naftemporiki.gr, at the top of the list of public assets and enterprises that are going to be made available to investors are the International Broadcasting Center (currently the Golden Hall shopping mall), the State Lottery, Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), the gas grid operator (DESFA), the Helliniko site, the state gambling company (OPAP), the horse racing organization (ODIE), land in Corfu and Rhodes, and 28 real estate properties that will be sold and leased back.
According to Reuters, Russian, Italian, U.S. and French companies had expressed an interest in the natural gas company DEPA and gas grid operator DESPA.
Sources told Kathimerini that it was also agreed that the government’s general secretary, Takis Baltakos, would be responsible for overseeing the effort to complete 77 legislative and administrative acts relating to privatizations, many of which are included in Greece’s bailout terms. Sources said that this will involve coordinating the action of nine ministries. Baltakos is a close associate of the prime minister.
Among the legislative acts that need to be completed is one that will lead to the cancellation of the law that requires the state to retain a 51% stake in public enterprises considered to be of strategic importance. The law that limits a single investor holding just 20% of one of these companies will also be repealed. Regulatory authorities to oversee the privatization of highways, ports, airports and refuse collection also need to be set up.