Athens Digest 22.03.2019

• Min Fin Tsakalotos seeks to ease concerns over insolvency bill

• IMF: Early loan repayment is up to Greece

• Tax statements in 2018 showed new declared-income drop

• Current account deficit widens in January

# Euclid Tsakalotos says the government will press ahead with draft legislation to reform the foreclosure protection rules despite the ongoing disagreement with lenders. The draft legislation is due to be submitted in parliament today. “We want to create a new framework to help people repay their mortgages and for banks to cut down on soured loans … We will see how we will proceed after that,” the finance minister said. He added: “We think that for the most part, we are listening to the views of the institutions but we also maintain the prerogative to disagree on one, or two, or three points because we believe that some of our proposals are better. We, for example, are better acquainted with the real estate market.”

# The IMF spokesman says any decision on early Greek loan repayment to the fund is up to the country’s authorities. Gerry Rice did not say whether the fund favours early repayment or how European creditors would be involved. “It’s a decision for the Greek authorities to make and the way I would put it is: to make that decision in consultation with other official creditors where appropriate.” (video here, scroll to 30:00)

# Greek taxpayers declared lower overall income in 2018, with the self-empoyed showing biggest drop. Tax statements submitted last year (for 2017 incomes) totalled EUR 73.6 billion from EUR 74.6 billion the previous year _ despite a return to growth from mild recession. Taxes on those amounts actually rose from EUR 8.0 to 8.4 billion despite the decline. Incomes declared by the self-employed also fell from EUR 3.89 to 3.4 billion, a result that is likely to reflect a shift to the grey economy to avoid higher taxes and a number of part-time employees switching to salaried jobs as the recovery picked up.

# The current account deficit worsened by EUR 487 million in January on the year to reach EUR 1.2 billion, the Bank of Greece has reported. The numbers resulted from “a deterioration in all balance of payments components, excluding the services balance,” the bank said. Exports of goods at current prices decreased due to a decline in oil-related products, while non-oil exports continued an upward trend.

On our Radar: Greeks top Europe’s discontents
Greeks are among Europe’s most disappointed citizens regarding the public finances and immigration in the aftermath of the country’s massive economic and migration crises. The Pew Research survey conducted in the run-up to May European Parliament elections showed 82 percent of Greeks opposed to allowing more migrants into the country, the highest level in the EU including Hungary (72 percent) and Italy (71 percent). Greeks also topped the chart when asked if the financial situation had worsened in the last 20 year. Eighty-seven percent of Greek respondents agreed with that statement _ while the EU average was just 50 percent. But Greece was not the most pessimistic country when asked if the next generation would be better off. The 69 percent response in Greece fell below Britain (70 percent), Spain (72 percent), and France (80 percent).