The government is under increasing pressure to prevent the next evaluation of the Greek bailout programme by the country’s lenders from turning into a nightmare of protracted delays.
In the next few days – possibly even tomorrow – the government is expected to send a written memorandum to the IMF and Brussels with which it will seek to allay the lenders’ fears regarding the progress of the structural reform programme. Only if they are satisfied will the troika representatives book their tickets for Athens in order to complete the key assessment of the Greek programme.
A successful completion of the assessment is vital for the government's plans to 'exit the memorandum', receiving its last loan tranches from the EU and IMF by the end of this year. However for that to occur the lenders' representatives must be satisfied with Athens' progress, and many reforms have yet to be implemented with time running out.
The lenders have requested for the Greek government to lay out a specific framework regarding what the government ‘can and cannot do’. However to date the Greek side has yet to respond. This has led to IMF and EU representatives making clear that they will not travel to Athens for the next round of negotiations until there is a clear picture regarding the progress of a number of open issues.
At the same time the government has yet to implement reforms which it has already agreed to and passed through parliament, leaving their actual implementation until the 11th hour. Little time remains given that according to the timetable the government must come to an agreement with the troika following the next Eurogroup meeting on the 18th of December.
Finance Ministry sources continue to maintain that the Troika will come to Athens next week. Yet this appears increasingly unlikely given that the Greek government is unwilling, in the current political climate, to move ahead with certain reforms considered necessary prerequisites by the Troika. These include reform of the social security system and labour laws.
The waters are further muddied by the looming prospect of snap elections in March if the coalition can not find a supermajority of 180 MPs for the election of a new president in February.
While the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras continues to provide assurances that he will not allow the presidential elections to be a factor for political instability, the number of political dinners and meetings is multiplying as MPs eye the prospect of general elections and begin jockeying for position.
It is perhaps characteristic that within the ruling party New Democracy, certain backbenchers have raised the first objections to the draft legislation due to be tabled today by the Minister of Development, Nikos Dendias to deal with the issue of unserviced loans and tax debts. Dendias’s imminent move from the Ministry of Development to the Defense Ministry has also been a flashpoint for internal political bickering.
A recent proposal by the New Democracy MP, Dora Bakoyianni that the Prime Minister take the initiative and propose talks with the leader of leftist opposition party SYRIZA and the other political leaders has also caused irritation within the Prime Minister’s circle. Sources from the prime ministerial mansion maintain that such move would be pointless given that the opposition party has no willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue.
Instead the priority of the Prime Minister’s office is to engage in confrontations with SYRIZA on the basis of the opposition’s proposals for the country’s future, something which Antonis Samaras’s circle believe to be SYRIZA’s weak spot.
But that will do little to impress the country's lenders who remain insistent in their demands for continued implementation of reforms in Greece come hell, high water, or general elections.