Athens Digest 08.03.2019

• Question mark over debt relief payout as reforms lag

• IMF: Early repayment up to Greece, post monitoring report to be released on Tuesday

• Greece misses 2018 growth mark

• Court decisions reversing bailout-era pay cut could have a “destabilising effect”, budget official cautions

• Coal-fired plant sale gets parliament reset

# Greece is now seen an unlikely to reach agreement with creditors in time for Monday’s Eurogroup meeting over conditions needed for debt relief measures worth nearly a billion euros. A senior EU official told reporters in Brussels a decision on the Greek payment _ from government bonds held by the ECB _ is not expected on Monday because of unfinished efforts to narrow differences on several reforms starting with the overhaul of household insolvency rules.

# IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice says Greece does have the right to proceed with an early repayment of its loans to the Fund. “It’s a decision that would be made by Greece and in consultation with its other creditors,” Rice said. “That would clearly reduce the interest rate overall for Greece. But it would not affect the post program monitoring process which is ongoing.” The IMF’s report on its post-programme monitoring mission would be released on Tuesday, Rice said. (Video here,  scroll to 29:00)

# Following a disappointing final quarter, Greece missed its growth target for 2018, dropping below 2 percent. The country’s statistical authority announced the weaker-than-forecast figure, showing that the economy grew by 1.9 percent in 2018. The fourth quarter showed a 0.1 percent contraction from the previous three months _ pushing the annual figure below the government forecast of 2.1 percent It was the first contraction after nine straight positive quarters.

# A series of court decisions reversing bailout-era pay cut could have a “destabilising effect” on budget execution warned Frangiskos Koutentakis, the head of the Parliamentary Budget Office. He also stressed that the damage done to the economy during the crisis would take years to repair. “It’s a heavy legacy: Soured loans, the national debt, tax arrears, and the very low capital stock,” Koutentakis said during a briefing with lawmakers.

# An amendment has been tabled to parliament for the sale of PPC’s lignite units through a new tender. The process will be carried out by the Public Power Corporation under state supervision: An invitation will be published, giving investors who participated previously as well as new potential bidders seven days to express interest. The sale of PPC’s coal-fired power plants has been cited by Greece’s creditors as one of the country’s major delays in agreed reforms.

On our Radar: Wide Gender Gap in Greece 
Greece has one of the highest gender employment gaps in the European Union, according to statistics released for International Women’s Day. The list published by Eurostat showed Greece’s gap in employment rates between men and women aged 20-64 to be 19.7 percentage points _ the third highest in the bloc behind Malta (24.1 percent) and Italy (19.8 percent). The lowest differences were in Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden which had respective rates of 1, 3.5, and 4 points. Greece faired slightly better in other equality measures including the number of senior executives at large publicly-listed companies at 18 percent, or one point above the EU average.