ATHENS, Greece — Greece will receive the next batch of bailout loans in time to avoid a disastrous default, the finance minister said Tuesday, while the prime minister was in Berlin for critical talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Greece’s international creditors, among them Germany, are pressing Athens to fully implement austerity measures agreed in exchange for rescue loans. They are holding up payment of the next batch of those loans until a review of the reforms is completed in coming days. Without the money, Greece will go bankrupt in mid-October, potentially sending shock waves through the financial sector in Europe and abroad.
“I am very confident in ... the disbursment of the sixth tranche,” Evangelos Venizelos said, speaking above the sound of chanting from protesting tax office workers outside the Finance Ministry, who blew whistles and set off a fake police siren. “But we must dow what has been agreed.”
The minister said the country had already made great efforts to achieve its fiscal targets, but that a “hyper-effort” was necessary to fully meet its committments.
Greece had originally expected a review by the country’s debt inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission to be completed in September and approve the sixth installment of loans from its (euro) 110 billion ($149 billion) international bailout fund.
But the inspectors, known collectively as the troika, suspended their review last month amid talk of missed targets and budget shortfalls. Venizelos said the troika would return to Athens this week, and that the disbursment of the next bailout tranche, worth (euro) 8 billion, would be done in time as there were several eurogroup meetings in October during which the other eurozone countries could approve the payment.
In Berlin, Greek premier George Papandreou told a conference of the Federation of German Industries that “we are borrowing to repay.”
“I can guarantee that Greece will live up to all its commitments,” Papandreou said ahead of a meeting with Merkel. He promised that Greeks will “fight our way back to growth and prosperity.”
The government recently announced new austerity measures, including pension cuts and tax hikes. Lawmakers are to vote Tuesday night on a new property tax, which is to be paid through electricity bills to make it easier for the state to collect.
The Greek Parliament will complete its votes on the latest austerity measures by the end of October.
Greeks have been outraged by the introduction of yet more spending cuts and tax hikes after a year of austerity. Unions have responded with repeated strikes and protests. Public transport workers walked off the job Tuesday for two days, and were to be joined by taxi drivers on Wednesday. Tax office workers were also on strike.