Greece Draws The Line As Unity Government Leaders Refuse To Cede To Further Troika Austerity Demands
It appears that Greece will not even have to wait until the dreaded March 20 funding D-Day. As was earlier reported, Greek PM Lucas Papademos may resign if he is unable to persuade his coalition unity government to agree to further Troika demands for additional austerity. It now appears that there will be no agreement, and thus the primary demand from the Troika for further cash disbursement will not be met. The FT reports: "All three party leaders in Greece’s teetering national unity government have opposed new austerity measures demanded by international lenders, forcing eurozone finance ministers to postpone approval of a new €130bn bail-out and moving the country closer to a full-blown default. Representatives of the so-called “troika” – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – have demanded further cuts in government jobs and severe reductions in Greek salaries, including an immediate 25 per cent cut in the €750 minimum monthly wage, before agreeing the new rescue. But representatives of all three coalition partners, including centre-left Pasok of former prime minister George Papandreou and the centre-right New Democracy of likely successor Antonis Samaras, said they were unwilling to back the government layoffs." Now we have been here before, and as a reminder the last time Greece threatened to pull out of Europe with the G-Pap referendum threat back in the fall, G-Pap was promptly replaced with the Trilateral Commission member and former ECB Vice President, Lucas Papademos. The problem is that for him to obtain power, he needed to form a coalition government. Well, that now appears to be in tatters, as not one party is willing to break to the Greeks that the minimum wage of €750 will be cut even further. The question is who will blink first this time, as it is quite likely that neither the Troika nor Greece want an out of control default. Unless, of course, this was Germany's plan B to the imposition of a Greek commissar all along...
More from the FT:
In addition, a Greek government official said the EU and IMF negotiators rejected a counter-proposal that would have frozen Greek wages for three years and cut social security contributions by 10 per cent.
Without approval of the new bail-out within a matter of days, Athens is at risk of defaulting on a €14.5bn bond that comes due on March 20. Many eurozone officials fear such a default could reignite panic in European bond markets, pushing Italy and Spain back into danger.
The standoff in Athens has angered officials in eurozone creditor countries, particularly in those that have retained their triple A credit ratings and will be leant on most heavily to provide new Greek aid.
Finance ministers from the four remaining triple As – Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Luxembourg – met in Berlin on Friday where they agreed that Athens must move quickly or they would withhold assistance.
“We want no further delays,” Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch finance minister, said after the meeting.
Eurozone finance ministers had hoped to meet on Monday in Brussels to sign off on the new bail-out, but officials cancelled the gathering on Friday. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who serves as chairman of the group, issued a statement saying only that the meeting “may be scheduled later in the week”.
Kathimerini with the pre-story:
Papademos is expected to meet PASOK’s George Papandreou, New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras and Giorgos Karatzaferis of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) on Saturday. The three politicians will have to agree on measures that will satisfy Greece’s lenders and pave the way for a new bailout.
However, a number of sticking points remain. One of the main issues on which the party leaders are finding it difficult to agree is the private sector wage reductions that are being demanded by the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Sources told Kathimerini that the troika is demanding that the minimum wage of 751 euros per month (gross) be reduced and that labor costs in the private sector drop by 25 percent in a bid to help Greece regain competitiveness.
Labor unions and employers wrote to Papademos on Friday to inform him that they cannot agree on a wage cut.
Papademos needs the agreement of the political leaders so the prospect of Greece receiving a new bailout can be discussed at the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.
Greece will have to set out the measures it plans to take over the next two years to reform its economy and create a primary budget surplus as well as the framework for the debt restructuring agreement with its bondholders.
Skai TV and radio reported on Friday that should the leaders fail to agree a deal, Papademos will tender his resignation on Monday.
And so on. To say that by now the market may well surge, however briefly, out of pure delight that Greece has finally defaulted, may not be a stretch. Of course, the "however briefly" period will shortly thereafter end, leaving Europe with few things to look forward to aside from complete disintegration of the union and its currency. But at least US banks will be fully insulated to that "contingency" which is increasingly looking like a "certainty."