May 15, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 5 months ago

Greece, lenders resume talks on final bailout review

ATHENS, May 15 (Reuters) - Greece and representatives from its EU/IMF creditors will resume talks on the country’s final bailout review on Wednesday aiming to reach an initial agreement on its reform progress by May 24.

The country wants to quickly conclude the negotiations with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, as it races to exit its third international bailout since 2010 in August.

“There is absolutely no reason for any delay by any side,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters. “Our aim is to conclude the review on a technical level by the next meeting of euro zone finance ministers on May 24.”

Athens will be assessed by its lenders on more than 80 demanded reforms, including on energy issues, pension and labour reforms, as part of its final bailout review.

Technical teams from both sides met this week to prepare the ground for the talks between Greek ministers and European Union and International Monetary Fund inspectors, which are due to begin in Athens on Wednesday, Tzanakopoulos said.

The leftist-led government wants to emerge from the bailout programme without requesting a precautionary credit line or extra financial aid. It has been building a cash buffer and wants to be able to service its debt with funds raised directly from the markets.

“We aim to successfully conclude the fourth review to reach a comprehensive agreement for the country’s ‘clean exit’ from the third bailout programme within June,” Tzanakopoulos said.

A finance ministry official said the review was likely to be finally wrapped up in June. Athens also hopes to reach a deal with its lenders before July on further debt relief, which will be implemented in the post-bailout period.

Since 2010, Greece has received about 260 billion euros in bailout loans in exchange for tough austerity and reforms. The bailout loans have kept it afloat but have also helped balloon its debt, which now stands at 180 percent of GDP.

The IMF, which estimates lower economic growth for Greece than its European lenders and has not released any loans since 2014, has also been pushing for a debt reprofiling, saying it is necessary for the country’s debt to be sustainable.

To convince the IMF to participate in its third bailout programme, as demanded by some European Union members, Greece was forced to legislate for pension cuts and tax hikes that will be implemented in 2019 and 2020, after the end of its bailout.

“I believe that we will know whether the IMF will join or not by the end of the month, or in early June,” said the finance ministry official, who requested anonymity. (Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou Editing by Catherine Evans)

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