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Troika seeks 150 new Greek reforms, debt write-off: report

BERLIN -- International auditors will demand Greece carry out a further 150 reforms to its recession-battered economy and suggest holders of Greek debt take a further hit, German newsweekly Spiegel reported Sunday.

Citing an interim version of the findings of the troika of creditors, Spiegel said Athens would get an extra two years to carry out the reforms in its program but this delay would cost billions of euros.

Greece has completed 60 percent of the reforms already demanded of it, the report says, according to Spiegel. A further 20 percent are being debated by the Greek government, while the rest are outstanding.

Among the additional reforms demanded are a loosening of the hiring-and-firing laws, changes to the minimum-wage rules and a lifting of certain professional privileges, Spiegel said.

The report also suggests that creditors including other eurozone countries take a “haircut,” or write-off, on some of their holdings of Greek debt, meaning taxpayers would be funding the bailout.

The European Central Bank would not write off its holding of Greek debt because this would amount to financing Greece, which is strictly forbidden, Spiegel reported.

But the ECB — which is part of the troika along with the International Monetary Fund and the EU — is prepared to forgo profits on its Greek debt holding, the weekly said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble however dismissed the idea of a further haircut for Greece as unrealistic.

“That is a discussion which has little to do with the reality in the member states of the eurozone,” he told German radio station Deutschlandfunk.

However, he suggested that Greece could buy back some of its debt at lower prices from bond holders.

Private investors in Greek debt accepted to write off almost all of the value of their holdings as part of the second Greek bailout package negotiated earlier this year.

But so-called “official sector” bondholders, including other eurozone governments, have until now been spared such a write-off.

Greece is striving to persuade the troika it has made enough progress in reforms and painful austerity cuts to unlock a 31.5-billion-euro (US$41 billion) slice of aid needed to stave off bankruptcy.

Cost of Delay Uncertain

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said Greece's coffers will be empty in mid-November. Spiegel said the long-awaited report would be published on Nov. 12 at the latest.

Creditors differ on how much the two-year delay would cost, with the EU and ECB estimating 30 billion euros and the IMF 38 billion euros, Spiegel said.

In order to ensure reforms are carried out, further tranches should be stored in a frozen account and released when changes have been implemented, Spiegel said.

Changes would also be made to the budgetary laws in Greece, meaning, for example, that taxes would automatically rise if reforms are not implemented when required, the newsweekly reported.

Without referring to the specific measures outlined in the Spiegel report, Schaeuble said such a control mechanism could “perhaps create the credibility that we have not had in Greece programs until now.”

The interim report was presented Thursday to officials in Brussels, who are preparing the next meeting of eurozone finance ministers, expected to take place by teleconference on Wednesday, Spiegel said.

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