Greece demands explanation from IMF

  • 03/04/2016
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde (Reuters)
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde (Reuters)

Greece has demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund after an apparent leaked transcript suggested it may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout to force European lenders to offer more debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks in Athens on Greece's fiscal and reform progress next week aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring.

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

Internet whistleblowing site WikiLeaks published what it said was the transcript of a March 19 conference call of three senior IMF officials discussing tactics to apply pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to reach a deal in April.

The officials were quoted as discussing a threat that the fund might not participate in Greece's third bailout program as a way to force EU creditors, especially Germany, to reach a deal on debt relief before Britain's June referendum on whether to stay in the European Union.

"The Greek Government asks the IMF for explanations whether pursuing the creation of bankruptcy conditions in Greece, just before the British referendum, is the Fund's official position," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told state television on Saturday (local time).

An IMF spokesman in Washington said the Fund did not comment on "leaks or supposed reports of internal discussions" but added that the IMF had made its position known in public.

"We have stated clearly what we think is needed for a durable solution to the economic challenges facing Greece - one that puts Greece on a path of sustainable growth supported by a credible set of reforms matched by debt relief from its European partners," he said.

If concluded the review will unlock a fresh tranche of about 5 billion euros (NZ$8.25 billion), which Greece needs to pay off state arrears and ECB and IMF maturing debt. Greece has no major debt redemptions due until July.

The Greek government interpreted the leak as revealing an IMF effort to blackmail Athens with a possible credit event to force it to give in on pension cuts which it has rejected.

Commenting on the leak, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told weekly newspaper Ethnos: "It seems that some people are playing games with an aim to destabilise us."