Troika auditors in Athens to scrutinise Greek accounts

PHOTO: Troika auditors in Athens to scrutinise Greek accounts
European Commission's director Matthias Morse arrives at the Finance Ministry for a meeting with Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras in Athens on March 3, 2013.

ATHENS - Greece's bailout lenders on Sunday began an audit of the country's accounts to assess its progress in implementing reforms needed to unlock another loan to help it out of the debt crisis.

Representatives from the so-called troika of Greece's creditors - the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - held a meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras in Athens as part of regular efforts to review the steps Greece has taken to meet its bailout obligations.

Thorny issues that Athens still needs to address include shrinking the number of jobs in the public sector, speed up privatisation plans and recapitalise four of its main banks.

Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015.

In an interview published in the Sunday newspaper To Vima, Stournaras said there would be "no lay-offs."

"Over the past year and a half, the public sector has been reduced by 75,000 people," he was quoted as saying.

The paper said thousands of people have retired in recent years and that the measures that will be implemented in 2013 will leave the sector with gaping holes.

Last year, around 2,000 workers were placed in so-called labour reserve pools - meaning they do not work and their salaries are cut by 40 percent until they are made redundant - and another 1,000 employees, who had violated civil servant rules, will be dismissed in 2013, it said.

The lay-off plans have sparked intense bickering among Greece's coalition partners.

Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left party, has warned against the dismissals, citing the country's soaring unemployment rate which in November reached a new record high of 27 percent.

Facing a sixth year of continuous recession, the heavily-indebted country has been relying on international rescue packages to avoid bankruptcy and get its economy back on track.

Since 2010, the EU and the IMF have committed 240 billion euros (S$387.6 billion) overall in rescue loans to Greece.

The next payment to Greece, of 2.8 billion euros, is due at the end of March.