Athens Digest 22.01.2019

• Bailout inspectors double down on bad-loan mountain

• Prespes Agreement: After violence, parliament braces for Thursday vote

• Hellenic Petroleum bidders confirmed for final round, new deadline expected

• Cash buffer payout swells national debt figure

# Representatives of Greece’s creditor institutions have returned to Athens to follow up on a long list of reforms considered to be overdue. Talks with government officials today will focus on the banking-support plan and the replacement regime to protect mortgage holders. The mission of the institutions is expected to stay until Friday. Their findings _ on this second post-bailout surveillance mission _ are to be included in a European Commission report next month and will be reviewed at a March 11 Eurogroup meeting, when ministers will decide on whether to release ECB bond profits to  Greece in a new round of debt relief measures. The inspectors yesterday held meetings at New Democracy, where party’s sources said discussions covered structural reforms, the financial sector, labour reforms, and fiscal developments. At the meetings, the conservatives advocated a “frequent and stable” approach to making a market return.

# On a day of high emotion and parliamentary drama, lawmakers began debating a bill to ratify the Prespes Agreement, as small parties came under mounting pressure ahead of the looming general election. The final vote is expected after midnight on Thursday following two days of debate at committee level and two more in full session. Continued desertions saw the centrist Potami disappear as a parliamentary party.

# Greece’s privatization agency, HRADF, has confirmed the participation of two consortia for the final stage of the bidding process for a 50.1 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum, in a deal expected to exceed EUR 1 billion. The two picks are: Glencore Energy and CIEP Participations, a division of the Carlyle Group; and Vitol Holding with Algeria’s Sonatrach. Reuters, meanwhile, reported that the deadline for the final bidding is expected to be extended from the end of this month to sometime in March.

# Greece’s national debt has hit a staggering EUR 335 billion, according to data from the National Statistics Authority. The figure was swollen by a EUR 15 billion payout from the ESM at the end of the bailout that helped shore up the country’s cash buffer. The debt figure was EUR 21.5 billion higher on the year, and up EUR 11.6 billion on the quarter. Also: the country’s current account deficit worsened on the year ago in November, the Bank of Greece said: at EUR 1.42 billion from a EUR 1.13 billion that month in 2017.

On our Radar: More Jobs, Less Security
More than half the jobs created last year were with flexible or part-time contracts according to new data. Figures from the government’s labour monitoring platform Ergani showed that 54.6 percent of new jobs in 2018 were not on full-time contracts. Overall last year, there were 2.67 million new contracts and hirings as opposed to 2.5 to contract terminations and redundancies. The government has promised to try and boost full-time employment, and its spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos renewed a pledge yesterday to take action in the coming weeks to raise the minimum wage.