Athens Digest 24.09.2019

• Greek official: Agreement with creditors on 2019 outlook, but it’s too early for 2020

Draghi signals Greek future in QE

Tax relief on table after Thomas Cook collapse

Jan-July travel balance jumps to EUR 7.5 billion

Piraeus Bank responds to ECB penalty

Modern highways, ageing bridges

The government and Greece’s creditor institutions wrapped up the first day of talks in Athens in agreement that they see no fiscal gap in 2019. But the three-day meetings are not expected to produce a consensus on 2020 projections for growth and fiscal performance, according to Greek officials who said more data was needed before those issues could be concluded. Talks with creditors are due to end tomorrow but with IMF staying on till Friday.

ECB President Mario Draghi says Greece could be included in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme if it continues progress on reforms. Greek bonds must return to investment grade and its national debt must pass a sustainability test before it could participate. “I’m pretty confident that if things continue to move in this way and the progress continues to be significant on the path of reform, there will conditions that Greece can participate in QE,” Draghi said during questions at an appearance before the committee on economic affairs at the European Parliament. “But progress has to be made, (and it) has to continue.”

# The government is backing an initiative to suspend overnight stay tax on hotels in Greece hit by the Thomas Cook collapse. The Finance Ministry held an extraordinary meeting last night to deal with the fallout of the travel giant’s bankruptcy that affected an estimated 50,000 holidaymakers in Greece. The tax relief initiative also won support from the Greek Tourism Confederation, SETE, which claimed that the impact in Greece could be worth as much as EUR 500 million. But a new meeting in the following days is expected to discuss the issue n details.

The January-July balance of travel services as reached a EUR 7.55 billion, up from EUR 6.79 billion a year earlier _ helped by a 13.6 percent or EUR 1.097 billion jump in travel receipts. According to Bank of Greece data, average expenditure per trip rose 13.1 percent on the year.

Piraeus Bank says an ECB banking supervision penalty announced yesterday refers to a legacy issue of 2015, arising out of a regulatory inspection for breach of own funds prudential requirements. “There is no further impact on the financials of the bank, as it has already reflected these issues as well as the penalty amount in past financial statements,” Piraeus Bank said in a statement, adding: “Since 2017, Piraeus Bank has undertaken a major restructuring of its top and middle management, an adoption of an adjusted return on capital methodology and process endorsed by its business owners, as well as a revamp of its corporate governance structures.

On our Radar: Bridge Danger
Greece needs to modernise its bridge safety supervision system to avoid the potentially deadly damage from earthquakes and other causes, according to a new study by Dianeosis. The Athens-based Research and Policy Institute says, according to its study, bridges built before 1993 do not have sufficient earthquake standards. Greece has an estimated 17,000 bridges. The new motorwats cover some 3,000 bridges over 6 meters in length, only about half of which are new. The think tank calls in authorities to create a database for Greece’s bridges allowing better safety planning. The study was carried out following the collapse of the Ponte Morandi in Genoa Italy last year, killing 43 people.