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Differences remain as Greece talks with creditors

Differences remain as Greece talks with creditors
Government sources hint at progress but say outstanding issues remainrn

A series of meetings between Greek finance officials and the country’s creditors began early this week with an emphasis on gaps between the two sides.

Despite the distance between the two sides on non-performing loans (red loans) there has been some progress on pension reforms and income tax.

The Greek government is struggling with much-needed austerity reforms in order to get a positive assessment on its bailout plan.

The minister of finance said early on Friday that “we are close to a final agreement on income tax”.

According to the minister both sides were close to an agreement on the issue of income tax. Both agreed that taxpayers with higher income would pay more than those on lower incomes.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday regarding the non-performing loans, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis stated that the institutions are still asking to liberalize the sale of loans.

“They’re asking to be able to sell everything,” he said.

Stathakis added that the institutions mentioned there could be an exemption on some primary residences and they are also discussing some loans connected to the primary residence, adding that they are making some concessions, without specifying them.

Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos speaking to Athens Macedonian News Agency on Thursday expressed his optimism and said that a deal with Greece’s lenders on the required package of social security and pension reforms could be achieved by Saturday.

“Of course there was no agreement today,” he said. “I cannot say now if we’ll agree. I am, however, a bit more optimistic compared to yesterday’s meeting,” and noted that more progress could be made on Saturday.

According to the minister, there were no specific objections from the institutions concerning social security, adding that the government is insisting on not cutting main pensions.

“There was no such issue raised, even from the other side," he said and noted the government also wants to maintain a “redistributive character of the system.”

“You cannot reach a compromise if you don’t have mutual concessions. We hope there will be a deal.”

A new round of talks began on Friday, with the main focus on other measures necessary to secure a 3.5% GDP primary surplus in addition to non-performing loans, which is scheduled to be discussed on Saturday.

The Greek government needs to implement tough measures and reforms on social security system, fiscal figures, privatizations and restructuring public administration, among others, in order to meet its commitments based on the bailout agreement signed in 2015 in order to avoid bankruptcy.

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