Athens Digest 18.12.2018

• Bolstered security after TV station bombing

• New court ruling could spell fiscal trouble

• Greece needs business-friendly jolt, says Stournaras

# Police have bolstered security at potential targets ahead of Christmas following the bombing of Skai television station. Past attacks by far-left militant groups have frequently been carried out in pairs. The powerful pre-dawn blast, yesterday, outside the TV station, which also houses the daily Kathimerini newspaper, in Athens’ Faliro area was not followed by any immediate claim of responsibility. “The attack will not cower anyone. We will continue to operate with professionalism, independence and objectivity,” Kathimerini said. The bombing follows a high-profile spat between the station and the ruling Syriza party which accused it of biased reporting and had refused to send representatives to take part in current affairs programmes.

# A panel of senior judges has ruled in favour of plaintiffs from the public sector who charged that bailout-mandated cuts to annual bonuses (payouts based on dividing annual pay into 14 salaries) was unconstitutional. The ruling was deferred to a plenary session of the Council of State and if ratified would be the latest reversal of austerity measures with potential complications for Greece’s fiscal obligations. Crucially, the plenary session will also decide on the scope of implementation and whether retroactive payment would be necessary.

# Greece is in urgent need of additional business-friendly reforms to addressing the acute problems and inequalities enduring after the bailout, central bank chief Yannis Stournaras says. The governor said Greece’s huge pile of soured loans, high unemployment and national debt, and the continued flight of skilled workers meant that the government should double down on reforms including a plan to reduce NPLs, strengthening independent regulatory authorities, and maintaining a flexible labour market. Stournaras’ priority, to maintain a strong emphasis on structural reforms, was in contrast to a government drive to channel budget surplus cash into welfare programmes. He spoke at the Ecali club, a private event organizer.

On our Radar: Demographic Distress
Greek policy makers are being urged to make dealing with the country’s demographic crisis a priority using reforms in tax and education. The latest warning came from the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, IOBE, which identified the country’s shrinking population as a major obstacle to sustainable growth. Analysing the decline in the school population, an IOBE study said the full effects of the ongoing decline in birth rates would not become apparent for several more years. It urged the government to build on long term plans for family benefits, tax incentives and school policy changes aimed at restoring the pre-crisis birth rate. The study follows several other warnings over Greece’s demographic challenges, including a recent survey by the Federation of Greek Enterprises.