ATHENS, March 9 (Reuters) - Greece and its international lenders resumed talks in Athens on Wednesday on the country’s fiscal and reform progress, rekindling Athens’ hopes that its first bailout review may be concluded before the end of April.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has a fragile parliamentary majority, wants to conclude the review swiftly to start talks on debt relief hoping to convince an angry public that their sacrifices are paying off after six years of austerity and lure back investors.
European Union and International Monetary Fund inspectors discussed the agenda of the review with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and were scheduled to meet Labour Minister George Katrougkalos later to discuss pension reforms. Fiscal issues were expected to be discussed on Thursday.
The review was interrupted in early February due to differences among the institutions over the estimated size of a fiscal gap by 2018, but also disagreements with Athens on the depth of the pension reform and the management of bad loans.
Athens has pledged to cut pension spending by 1 percent of GDP this year and reach a primary surplus of 3.5 percent by 2018. It was not clear if the lenders had reached a consensus on the projected fiscal gap which could force Athens to cut pensions further, despite its pre-election promises.
Euro zone finance ministers acknowledged this week that a debate on debt relief was coming up soon, but Greece should first implement pension and tax reforms, set up an independent revenue agency and deal with non-performing loans. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he expected the review would be completed by early May.
“It’s positive that there is an end date for the bailout review, but also for the negotiation on debt relief,” a government official told Reuters. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by Ralph Boulton)