Athens Digest 31.07.2018

• IMF revisits Greece’s dire demographics

• Fires the focus of party tactics

• After disaster, another valuable SNF donation

• Russia back in fight for crypto-fraud suspect

# It’s three weeks till the end of the bailout and Greece’s next important calendar entry is today’s publication of the IMF’s annual report (Article IV) on the country’s economy. Athens has missed QE and late programme participation by the IMF, and is very keen to see markets are getting positive signals from creditors. The IMF’s message today is likely to be mixed: The Eurogroup’s action on Greece last month is seen as positive for debt sustainability for at least the next decade. But the country’s aging population remains a destabilising threat as long as reforms fail to address the severity of the problem.

# Moody’s has changed its outlook on Greek banks from stable to positive, citing improved expectations for and asset risk through 2020. It’s assessment concentrated on progress in efforts to reduce the amount of nonperforming loans, against a backdrop of general improvement for the Greek economy.

# The death toll has risen every day since fires ravaged Mati and Rafina on July 23 and with it has party confrontation, despite pleas from all sides to keep politics out of the tragedy. PM Tsipras paid an unannounced early morning visit to fire-stricken Mati accompanied only by officials from his office and a state TV camera crew, drawing fresh criticism from opponents. Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called an emergency news conference for noon today, and is expected to highlight the government’s lack of emergency planning in high-risk residential areas.

# Patients at public hospitals in Greece may have already noticed that some of the ambulances outside the ER are marked with a discreet SNF logo. They will soon be added to Greek fire engines. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) will support the Greek Fire Service with a grant for EUR 25 million, adding to its EUR 19 million made in donations towards fire safety so far.

# Alexander Vinnik is now officially the subject of a three-nation fight. A court in Thessaloníki backed a renewed extradition request made by Russia. Vinnik is a former bitcoin operator accused of cyberattacks against Russian banks resulting in damages of around 750 million roubles. Moscow is fiercely competing with France and the United States to put him on trial. Vinnik, 38, is keen to return home to Russia, and in court yesterday claimed the case against him was politically motivated. In cases of competing requests, Greece’s justice minister takes the final decision.

On our Radar: Follow-up Fears
Greek post-bailout finances will be on a tightrope for years, threatened by the temptation to renege on promised reforms, the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung has warned. The newspaper cautioned that even a small deviation from budget targets could push the national debt back to an unsustainable level, adding that promised austerity in 2019-20 was already looking unlikely.