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Monday, May 4, 2015

Greek Labor Min: Greece Willing to Reach Deal but IMF Insists on Tough Labor Reforms

Greece intends to make due payments to lenders and reach an agreement, but the International Monetary Fund insists on tough labor reforms, said Labor Minister Panos Skourletis. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the finance ministry negotiating team are trying to reach an agreement with creditors within May in order to avoid bankruptcy. Athens has to make debt repayments to IMF totaling close to 1 billion euros in May, with a looming fear that it may not be able to pay public sector wages and pensions for the first half of the month. The Greek government has resorted to internal borrowing from state entities, such as municipalities and security funds. “The country has chosen to pay its obligations and reach an agreement (with lenders). We are trying to have the money,” Skourletis said on Mega television on Monday when asked if Athens can meet its obligations to the IMF. However, according to the labor minister, creditors insist that further bailout funds cannot be released unless Athens agrees to certain reforms that belong to the list of austerity measures that have created a humanitarian crisis. Measures such as pension cuts, mass layoffs and maintaining a low minimum wage. “They (the IMF) are asking us to not touch anything (from the austerity measures) that have ruined Greek people’s lives in the last five years,” Skourletis said. “The IMF is the most inflexible side … the most extreme voices of the Brussels Group,” the minister added. “But there are also calmer voices.” Negotiations with lenders have shown a shy progress in recent days and an agreement could be closer this month, a Greek government official said on Sunday.