Greece needs $25bn to get through August: Maltese minister

(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Greece needs an infusion of ‚¬22bn ($25bn) to pay its bills through the end of August, Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said.

This figure includes ‚¬7bn by July 20, when Greece owes about ‚¬3.5bn to the European Central Bank, Scicluna said in an interview. It includes ‚¬10bn for banks and ‚¬5bn for other needs. He spoke on the sidelines of yesterday's euro-area summit after finance chiefs concluded their session.

"The Greeks have finally understood that unless they get an injection of cash they are faced with a doomsday scenario," Scicluna said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government has said it could submit legislation to parliament today for a vote by Wednesday. In its July 8 letter requesting a bailout, Greece said it could implement pension and tax reforms as early as the start of the coming week.

Greece has requested ‚¬82bn to ‚¬86bn in new aid, as its financing estimates have ballooned to show debt reaching 200% of gross domestic product, Scicluna said.

To gain aid, Greece will have to meet tough conditions and satisfy creditor demands. The International Monetary Fund, which provided the estimate of immediate financing needs, also would need to be part of the monitoring team handling the bailout operations, he said.

The main points are pensions, bank oversight requirements, tax discounts on Greek islands, and issues of value-added taxes or VAT, Scicluna said. Greece also must tackle legislation on justice and administrative issues, independence of statistics, and general governance matters, and further legislation will be required later in the year.

"We had to work towards more demanding conditions and Greece is accepting them," he said.

Finance ministers meeting in Brussels demanded Greece enact economic reforms before opening detailed negotiations on an aid package. They left it to the region's leaders, who started their own session a few hours later, to pin down how far those measures should go. If Tsipras misses that deadline, Greece may be suspended from the currency union, Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said.

"Greece is being given exactly two choices," Stubb said. "It's a rather black-and-white choice."

Riled by six months of personal attacks and contradictory messages from Athens, euro-area policy makers are forcing Tsipras to overcome the credibility gap they said was a key hurdle to more loans. They're no longer willing to take him at his word.

"The situation is extremely difficult if you consider the economic situation in Greece and the worsening in the last few months, but what has been lost also in terms of trust and reliability," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.

With Greek banks rationing cash and the European Central Bank reviewing how long it can keep the country's financial system alive, Tsipras won a stay of execution as he arrived at the summit when a Sunday meeting of the 28 European Union leaders was canceled. The full group of leaders would only have gathered to discuss how to handle Greece's exit from the euro, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

The leaders' summit began with presentations on the state of play from officials including Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the finance ministers' leader, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Tsipras himself, according to an EU official. The leaders then set out their own positions before they broke for bilateral meetings. Tsipras will hold a session with Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, a Greek official said.

Creditors are using the calendar as leverage on Greece. Tsipras's predecessors were given months to enact economic reforms after tapping the first bailout loans in 2010.

"I'd like to see them demonstrating starting tomorrow in their parliament they're serious about implementing the changes, legislative and structural, that need to be put in place," Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said. "And there are many of them."

Comments in Greece suggested the pressure was having its intended effect.

An unsigned commentary in the Sunday edition of Avgi newspaper, seen as a Syriza party mouthpiece, said Tsipras must seal a deal, then address political fallout that is "driving the country to elections in a short time."

"The country has only the road of realism," Kostis Hatzidakis, an opposition New Democracy lawmaker and former minister, said on Skai TV yesterday. "The time for criticisms will come, but we have to escape the eye of the storm first."

Greece has already caved to creditors' demands, with lawmakers endorsing Tsipras's plan to increase sales taxes and cut pensions in the early hours of Saturday. The vote marked an abrupt turnaround for the Greek leader, who'd won an anti-austerity referendum a week earlier accusing the rest of the euro area of trying to blackmail his country.

"I am ready for an honest compromise," Tsipras told reporters as he arrived. "We owe it to the people of Europe that want a united, not divided, Europe. We can reach an agreement tonight if the parties involved want it."

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