Greece to tackle austerity plan to win new bailout

Markets Reuters

By George Georgiopoulos

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's cabinet is about to consider an economic plan imposing yet more austerity on an angry population, as the price of a second bailout partly funded by European taxpayers who have yet to be told the final cost.

The cabinet will Monday hold an informal discussion of the medium-term plan, the office of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou said Sunday.

Papandreou would then present the plan, which also promises a new privatization agency to speed up sales of state assets, to the political council of his PASOK party Tuesday before the cabinet clears on it Wednesday and sends it to parliament.

Interior Minister Yannis Ragousis has warned doubters within the ruling party that they risk pushing Greece over a cliff if they resist attempts to get the plan, agreed Friday with the European Union and IMF, through parliament.

Few details of the new three-year bailout or the Athens government's medium-term plan have yet been officially announced. But the unhappiness is likely to spill well beyond Greece's borders as taxpayers elsewhere in the euro zone begin to discover how much more rescuing Athens may cost.

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German news magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday the new package could end up costing more than 100 billion euros, if Athens still needs foreign aid in 2013 and 2014.

Spiegel cited estimates by experts from the German Finance Ministry and the "troika" of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. In Berlin, the finance ministry declined to comment on the weekly's report.

Greece agreed its first, 110 billion-euro bailout a year ago. But this assumed that Athens could resume borrowing commercially early next year, which now appears inconceivable. Athens is struggling to avoid defaulting on its existing debt and yields on its bonds are sky-high in the secondary market.

So far, Athens has received 43 billion euros under the first bailout, although it urgently needs another 12 billion which had been due in late June to cover debt repayments and for its day-to-day running costs. The troika said Friday that money should now be forthcoming in July.

GREEK EFFORTS "INSUFFICIENT"

Euro zone finance ministers and the IMF board must still back the new bailout, which would supersede last May's rescue.

Greece's commercial creditors are likely to be unhappy with the latest bailout plan, which is expected to demand that they share some of the cost of Greece's huge funding needs.

A source close to negotiations on the bailout involving EU officials in Vienna last Thursday said it would involve some participation of private investors.

Spiegel also reported that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had ordered his deputy Joerg Asmussen not to agree to any second rescue package at the Vienna talks that does not include the participation of private creditors.

Public opinion in Germany is hostile to helping Greece due to Athens's failure to get to grip with its finances, and electorates in Finland and the Netherlands are also restive.

"Greece is trying, but its efforts are insufficient," said Volker Kauder, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kauder, who leads her Christian Democrat party in parliament, dismissed nightly protests in Athens against austerity, corruption and mismanagement.

"We can't let ourselves be influenced by the demonstrations in Greece," she told Bild newspaper. "It's time that Greece finally becomes a state with central European standards."

The European Central Bank opposes any attempt to cut the overall value of creditors' bond holdings, known as a haircut, fearing this would badly hurt banks which hold Greek debt and provoke a violent reaction on international financial markets.

However, creditors may be asked to buy new Greek bonds when old ones mature, to avoid Athens having to produce more money.

Nevertheless, a Greek newspaper said Sunday the central bank planned to ask the country's banks, which have major Greek government bond holdings, to boost their capital adequacy.

This was aimed at easing market fears over the impact of any haircut, newspaper Kathimerini said, citing banking sources.

"This does not mean that the Bank of Greece accepts there will be a haircut. On the contrary, as a member of the European Central Bank it is against any type of debt restructuring," Kathimerini said.

(Additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin; writing by David Stamp; editing by Andrew Roche)