With international lenders pressing for Greece to speed the pace of privatizations, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with the head of Russia’s Gazprom, Alexei Miller, on March 12 to discuss the planned sale of Greece’s national gas distributor DEPA, which has five bidders.
The United States and European Union are keen to keep the utility out of the hands of a Russian entity and ther was no information released on what the two men discussed. Bidders have until April 12 to make binding offers for the Greek company.
Greece is being forced to sell or lease state entities and state properties on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is putting up $325 billion in two bailouts to prop up the country’s lifeless economy. Troika envoys have been meeting with Greek officials to ramp up the press for privatization before releasing more rescue monies, including a pending 2.8 billion euros, $3.64 billion.
A scheduled meeting between Samaras and the inspectors to discuss the country’s progress with structural reforms and the fiscal adjustment program was postponed until March 13. Greek media reported it was for “technical reasons” rather than obstacles in the negotiations but other reports said the talks stalled over the Troika’s insistence on the immediate firings of public workers and the failure of the government to go after tax cheats.
“We are working to finalize as many issues as we can … I don’t think we’ll get to all of them,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said. Despite big tax hikes, revenues are far off expectations because pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have cut Greeks disposable income so much that many have slowed spending almost to a standstill except for necessities.