Athens Digest 03.01.2019

• Kammenos’ exit won’t trigger snap poll, says government

• Yield unchanged at T-Bill auction

• Witness identified in drug scandal probe

• Thumbs up for LNG terminal market test

# The government spokesman says the withdrawal of Defence Minister Panos Kammenos’ Independent Greeks from the Cabinet, expected early this year, will not trigger a snap general election. In a radio interview, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, repeated public assurances made by Kammenos that he would withdraw from the ruling coalition over his objections with the proposed Macedonia-name agreement but would not vote against a minority Tsipras government if a censure motion is brought against it. The withdrawal could occur as early as this month if the Macedonia deal is submitted to parliament for ratification.

# Greece has raised EUR 1.625 billion at a 6-month treasury bill auction that saw the interest rate unchanged from the previous auction on December 5. The Public Debt Management Agency said the amount was raised from the EUR 1.25bn auction with a yield of 0.90 percent, and with the coverage ratio improving slightly to 1.39 percent from 1.33 percent. Non-competitive bids for up to 30 percent of the amount initially auctioned will be accepted until noon today.

# A former senior health adviser to the government during the negotiations with bailout lenders has been identified as one of three confidential informants in a pharmaceutical corruption case allegedly involving senior politicians. Nikos Maniadakis, a health services professor, came forward after he was charged with alleged links to the scandal involving payouts by Swiss drugmaker Novartis to boost Greek market access for its products. Politicians implicated in the affair have all vehemently denied any involvement. They include former conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, current Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras, and EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. Maniadakis was prevented from boarding a flight to Madrid before the new year and his passport was seized at Athens Airport. He told private Skai TV that he had been repeatedly questioned “under a regime of pressure” over the alleged involvement of Antonis Samaras, Yannis Stournaras and former minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis _ insisting he had denied any knowledge of their alleged involvement.

# First non-bidding phase of the market test for capacity reservation on a liquified natural gas terminal off the northeastern city of Alexandroupolis has been successfully concluded. Twenty companies expressed interest by the December 31 deadline in reservation of regasification capacity of up to 12.2BCM/a, intended for southeastern European markets _ a figure exceeding the terminal’s nominal regasification and send-out capacity of 5.5BCM/a. The market test was launched by natural gas company Gastrade which is developing the new LNG terminal. The project forms part of a broader vertical gas corridor to carry Caspian Sea and U.S. supplies in a south-north direction, from Greece to Ukraine, following commissioning of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) after 2020.

On our Radar: Spending Power Slump
Low-income Greeks have seen a further slide in their spending power, edging closer to east European levels, according to a German study. The Dusseldorf-based Institute of Economic and Social Research study found that hourly pay in Greece was as low as the equivalent of EUR 3.94 euros per hour, slightly higher than rates in Baltic countries and Bulgaria. The study was released amid a renewed debate in Europe over the value minimum wage increases following a 22 percent hike in Spain to EUR 900 euros per month as of January 1.