Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 28th 2015 Contents A18
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 28, 2015
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ATHENS---The Greek government was poised Mon-
day for the imminent start of intricate bailout dis-
cussion but faced rebuke following revelations that
former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, formed a
secret committee to plan for the possible conversion
of euros into drachmas "at a drop of a hat."
The talks have been delayed but are due to start Tuesday
with technical teams paving the way for high-level discussions
possibly by the end of the week.
While the final touches were being put in
place for the start of the technical talks in
Athens, a recording of Varoufakis discussing
a parallel currency plan was made public.
Opposition parties have criticised Varoufakis
and have urged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
to explain to lawmakers what he knew of his
former finance minister s actions.
In the recording of a telephone briefing for
investors on July 16 in the wake of his resignation
days earlier, Varoufakis claimed he and a childhood
friend who was a computer expert hacked into his
ministry s computer systems as a first step to creating
"a parallel banking system" in the event Greek
banks were shuttered.
The Greek banks were closed on June 29 to avoid
a bank run amid fears that Greece was heading for
a euro exit. In theory, a parallel system formed from
the effective cloning of tax accounts would have
allowed the finance ministry to continue payments
in the form of so-called IOUs.
Varoufakis said he had been authorised by Tsipras
to undertake the planning prior to the general elec-
tion in January when the radical left Syriza party
swept to power. And he insisted that his actions
were legal, in the public interest and aimed at keep-
ing the country in the 19-country eurozone.
In essence, the plan, which Tsipras ultimately
blocked, would have created a "functioning parallel
system" to give the government "some breathing
"It would be euro-denominated but at the drop
of a hat it could be developed to a new drachma,"
Varoufakis confirmed the authenticity of the
recording, which was released by the briefing organ-
isers, London-based Official Monetary and Financial
The revelation that Varoufakis was working on
a Plan B over Greece s future was one of many in
a wide-ranging discussion on the Greek crisis. He
also said that German Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble wanted Greece to leave the euro but that
his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was against
The recording prompted an outcry
among opposition parties.
The main conservative opposition,
New Democracy, accused Varoufakis of
"dark methods that threaten democra-
cy" and summoned Tsipras to brief par-
Tsipras, who is already facing a revolt
within his radical left Syriza over a raft
of austerity measures required by cred-
itors for the talks to actually begin, is
• Continues on right side
under pressure to call early elections once the
bailout discussions are completed.
The technical discussions on a wide array of
issues such as pensions and labor market reforms
are designed to clear the path for high-level dis-
cussions between Greek ministers and senior Euro-
pean Union and International Monetary Fund offi-
cials later this week.
After passing a series of reforms demanded by
creditors, such as steep sales tax hikes, the Greek
government is hoping negotiations will be com-
pleted by Aug. 20 when the country has a big
debt repayment of around 3.2 billion euros
(US$3.5 billion) to make to the European Cen-
Without the money from the expected three-
year bailout totaling around 85 billion euros,
Greece would be unable to make that payment---
a development that would likely trigger fresh fears
over the country s future in the euro.
But the reforms have come at a price for Tsipras.
One in four of his lawmakers refused to back them
in two votes in parliament, arguing that they flew in
the face of Syriza s anti-austerity platform in January s
The laws were passed with solid backing from pro-
European opposition parties, but left Tsipras without
an effective parliamentary majority. That has stoked
talk of early elections, just six months into Tsipras
"We must seal the (bailout) agreement and imme-
diately afterwards launch an electoral process," said
senior Syriza official Dimitris Vitsas, who is the deputy
defence minister. "After that (there will be) a new
government with a fresh mandate.
Mina Andreeva, a spokeswoman at the European
Commission, said teams from the institutions are
"now already on the ground in Athens and work is
She added that, while Athens has already delivered
"in a timely and overall satisfactory manner" the
reforms demanded for the talks to start, more will
be required to secure a swift rescue loan disburse-
"And this is also what is being discussed right now."
Greece has relied on bailout funds for a little more
than five years after being locked out of inter-
national bond markets. In return for around
240 billion euros worth of rescue money, suc-
cessive Greek governments have had to enact
a series of income cuts, tax hikes and economic
Though the measures drastically contained
budget overspending, they hit economic activ-
ity hard and drove unemployment to record
peacetime highs. And because the Greek
economy is around 25 per cent smaller than
it was, the country s debt burden has increased
to around 170 per cent of Greece s annual
Some sort of debt relief for Greece is up
for negotiation though a direct cut in the
amount owed is off the agenda. The IMF has
said Greece needs big relief and has advocated
delaying Greek debt repayments to European
creditors for many years.
ECB executive board member Benoit
Coeure said in an interview published Monday
that Greek debt relief "is no longer a matter
of debate" but must come alongside measures
to turn the Greek economy around.
"In truth, the question is not whether
Greek debt should be restructured, but how
to do it so it really benefits the country s
economy," he told French daily Le Monde.
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