Athens Digest 25.04.2019

• Government eyes post-Easter benefit binge despite creditors’ concern

• ESM’s approval procedure for early IMF repayment will be triggered after Greece submits official request

• Labour Minister Achtsioglou mulls pension reimbursement plan

• Hellenikon project wins key approval

# The government is finalising plans for pre-election relief measures to be announced after the Orthodox Easter break. The package of tax breaks and welfare programme increases includes one-off and permanent measures and was discussed at a meeting between Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, according to government source. The measures would also likely include benefits for conscientious taxpayers and an expanded installment scheme for tax repayment. The same source said that this scheme doesn’t have to be agreed with the country’s creditors. Moreover, given the huge primary surplus announced by the Greek Statistic Authority for 2018, it claimed that Greece should now revise its 2019 budget, without waiting until the end of the year. Nevertheless, according to reports, officials from Brussels said that the surplus is much based on public investments budget cuts.

# Greece has declared its intention to repay IMF loans early but that process still hasn’t started in earnest. An ESM approval is needed. The rescue fund, would examine Greece’s revised debt profile. This is seen by many as a formality given the benefit from clearing higher-interest obligations. The revised profile will be based on a detailed repayment timetable which is expected to be included in the country’s official request. Several Greek sources maintain that the sum in question is EUR 3.7 billion for IMF loans due in 2019 and 2020. Euro area members would then have to agree to waive ESM’s right also to be repaid early, a precedent already set by Ireland and Portugal and Cyprus. That for certain member States requires parliamentary approval.

# Labour Minister Effie Achtsioglou says the government is considering plans to compensate pensioners for 2012 cuts later ruled as being unconstitutional by the Council of State. Speaking on Antenna television, the minister said the government was examining ways to provide a 10-month repayment of the cuts, subject to an “examination of fiscal conditions” and with the final decision still to be taken by the prime minister. The measure, if approved, would affect some 2.5 million pensioners and cover a 10-month period between the high court verdict and parliamentary approval of a social security reform law.

# On our Radar: Hellenikon project wins key approval  
A panel of archaeologists has reviewed an environmental impact study for the major development project at Hellenikon, south of Athens, proposing modifications to high-rise buildings planned on the grounds of capital’s old international airport. The conditional approval by the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council clears another obstacle for the landmark project after nearly 5 percent of the area earmarked for development was classified as an archaeological site. One of the six high-rise buildings planned at Hellenikon is an observation tower with a height of between 140 and 200 meters, which would become the city’s tallest building. Tower 1 of the Athens Towers is currently the tallest at 103 meters.