Athens Digest 19.02.2019

• Reuters: March payout under threat over reform delays

• Privatization agency releases updated action plan, expands scope of sales

• Poll of polls sees win for conservatives in Greece and across EU

# Greece could miss a EUR 750 million debt relief payout from ECB profits on Greek bonds next month due to reform delays. Reuters quoted a eurozone official as saying: “The report is likely to say that Greece has not completed the agreed reforms,” _ referring to the February 27 Enhanced Surveillance Report on the Greek economy. “Eurozone finance ministers, who meet to discuss the issue on March 11, will not allow the disbursement unless Athens completes the actions between February 27 and March 11.” Creditors have become increasingly frustrated at delays in major privatization projects and at spending increases in the run-up to the general election. Other outstanding issues include a new foreclosure protection framework, the clearance of government arrears as well as administrative reforms in health care and other areas.

# Greece’s privatization agency HRADF has published an update of its Asset Development Plan, extending the list of entities for sale. The plan published in the government gazette provides a timetable for major privatizations projects including the Egnatia Odos motorways, Hellenic Petroleum, El. Venizelos Airport, and natural gas company DEPA. Additional projects include the underground natural gas depot in Kavala, as well as marinas such in Rhodes, Mykonos and elsewhere. The plan was approved on February 15 by the Government Council for Economic Policy, a cabinet-level body that oversees major economic policy decisions. HRADF’s 24-item agenda also includes the privatization of more Greek ports and publicly owned real estate.

# New Democracy remains on course to win Greece’s European elections in May with the conservatives across the bloc likely to retain their dominance despite gains for anti-EU parties. A survey of polls for the European Parliament across the 27-member post-Brexit EU showed Manfred Weber’s European People’s Party the likely winner with a projected 183 MEPs in the new assembly which will have a reduced number of seats (from 751 to 705 after Brexit). Though weakened, the Socialists and Democrats keep second place with a projected 135 seats. The Greek projected results, based on recent domestic opinion polls, are: New Democracy 9 seats, Syriza 6, Golden Dawn 2, Pasok 2, KKE 2 seats.

On our Radar: Tourism Blowback? 
In Koukaki area, students and other young people are being priced out of the central Athens neighborhood that was still affordable until very recently. A report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph says Greece’s Golden Visa is fuelling the short-term rental explosion and causing a quiet wave of “mass evictions.” The newspaper, citing real estate sources, claimed that the number of AirBnB properties has surged from 9,000 to 129,000 in two years, adding that in high-demand areas, short-term rentals make up 81-95 of its market. Those figures sharply contrast with far more conservative published industry estimates. The vacation-rental metrics firm AirDNA reported last month that by the end of 2018, short-term vacation rentals in Greece rose 21 percent on the year to 72,144.