International Monetary Fund representatives have cut short negotiations with Greek officials in Brussels, after they failed to present a viable reform plan. The move has left Athens, due to repay €1.6 billion by the end June, on the edge of default.
“The ball is very much in Greece’s court,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told the media during a specially scheduled announcement, before his team returns to Washington. “There are major differences between us in most key areas. There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently.”
With wages and pensions at 80 percent of total public spending “it’s not possible for Greece to achieve its medium-term fiscal targets without reforms, and especially of pensions.” Rice also told Athens to eschew “unsustainable” tax increases, but called on Athens to collect it’s existing VAT taxes.
Greece is carrying €320 billion ($360 billion) of external loans, but has been negotiating a cash-for-reforms deal for a €7.2 billion ($8.1 billion) tranche of a previously agreed bailout that will allow it to stave off an imminent deal.
Athens has insisted that it has presented a reform plan, while its delegation said it still believed that “intensifying negotiations” could produce a deal “in the coming days.” Its creditors have dismissed its promises as vague, and accused Greece of engaging in brinkmanship.
“There is no more space for gambling; there is no more time for gambling. The day is coming, I am afraid, that someone says the game is over,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, after chairing an EU-Latin America summit, which he had to leave several times to negotiate with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “We need decisions, not negotiations now.”
“We are working to assure an agreement which will ensure that Greece will recover with social cohesion and viable public debts,” Tsipras told the media after meeting the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, shortly after talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande.
Tsipras was due to continue talks with Juncker on Friday, but in view of the latest impasse, it may now be postponed.
Tsipras’s Syriza party was elected in January with backing from traditional socialist voters and an overlapping group of those simply tired of endless austerity measures from Brussels. Since 2008, Greece’s GDP has collapsed by almost a third.
Now, he is experiencing discontent and pressure from both camps. On Thursday, Communist activists unveiled a giant banner with the slogan “We have bled enough, we have paid enough. Take matters in your own hands Greek people! Block the new measures and long-term bailout agreements.”
It was hung from the finance ministry building in central Athens. The banner depicted Tsipras as just another Euro-stooge, alongside his more moderate predecessors.
At the same time voters in the center, also have reason for discontent. The economy, which was inching towards a tepid recovery, has now plunged into another recession under his uncertain watch, while the latest figures show that unemployment has risen to 26.6 percent.
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