Athens Digest 27.02.2019

• Greece braces for sobering reports on its recovery

• Gearing up for new bond auction, officials tell Reuters

• In poll, New Democracy makes gains amid opposition to Macedonia deal

• Repots: May 8 new date set for lignite plant sale

• Greeks’ health standards are dropping, Bloomberg survey finds

# The government is bracing for a critical assessment from creditors of its post-bailout reform programme, adding pressure on Athens to resolve a string of outstanding issues before the next Eurogroup meeting on March 11 to decide on debt relief payouts. Greece’s second enhanced surveillance programme report is to be published by the European Commission, along with a monitor on macroeconomic imbalances. The assessments are widely expected to point to delays in promised reforms, highlighting the need to swiftly agree and implement new regulations to protect primary home mortgage holders from foreclosure, without encouraging strategic defaulters. EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici is expected to discuss the reports while on a visit to Athens tomorrow. He is going to meet Prime Minister Tsipras.

# Athens is keenly eying the international interest in bond markets. The yield on Greece’s 5-year bond dropped below 5 percent yesterday, driving up speculation of a swift return to markets. Officials with knowledge of the process told Reuters that another bond sale was now expected, setting out to raise 5-7 billion. The German Handelsblatt also reported that Greece is preparing to call a 10-year bond auction. In January, Greece raised 2.5 billion euros in a five-year bond sale at a yield of 3.6 percent.

# New Democracy has gained more ground over Syriza in a new opinion poll, amid sustained opposition to the Macedonia-name agreement. A survey by Alco for Open TV gave the conservatives a 6.5-point advantage, widening the margin from 6.2 in December. The results were: New Democracy 26.9 percent, Syriza 20.4, Golden Dawn 6, KKE 5.8, Pasok 4.6, undecided 18.2 percent. Other significant findings included gains for three small parties, approaching the 3 percent parliament threshold, and impact f the Macedonia, with two-thirds of voters saying they would not use the term ‘New Macedonia.

# The long-delayed privatisation of coal-fired power stations at the Melitis and Megalopolis plants will be completed on May 8, under a revised procedure, Public Power Corporation CEO Manolis Panagiotakis has reportedly told the company’s board. The date for submission of bids under the new procedure will be set for late April, two weeks before PPC’s extraordinary general assembly. The sale of the lignite plants was specified during Greece’s third and final international bailout.

# Greece has dropped six places in Bloomberg’s global Health index. The index ranks countries based on a number of factors, including obesity and tobacco use level, and it saw Greece drop to 26th place from 20th in 2017. Spain topped the list as the world’s healthiest country followed by Italy, Iceland, Japan and Switzerland to make the Top 5.

On our Radar: Greece’s poorest regions
Twelve out of Greece’s 13 regions have below 75 percent of the EU average GDP per capita, newly-published Eurostat data showed. Only greater Athens was above the 75 percent mark. Overall, Greece’s per capita GDP stood at 67 percent of the EU average in 2017. The lowest per capita GDP in Greece in 2017 was recorded in the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (46 percent), Epirus (48 percent), the North Aegean (48 percent) and Western Greece (49 percent) These four Greek regions are among the 20 poorest in the EU.