Along with a large part of the Greek population, the authors of Reform Watch Greece engaged in various summer rituals, including extended vacation periods. We used this period to gather substantial anecdotal information about the economic, political and social situation in Greece’s regions, which will be compiled later. We also closely followed the dramatic July-August period filled with dozens of “to do” pronouncements by the Samaras Government in Greece and the sometimes perceptible reactions of its foreign partners.
While in this summer period the primary government focus has been on lining up painful but needed expenditure reductions to Greece’s budget in the 2013-2014 period, in line with commitments in the Second “Rescue” Memorandum agreed early this year, we have actually seen a few announcements which appear to be setting the stage for some critically needed new (and Troika-agreed) structural reforms. While implementation of most of these reforms remains in the future tense, two important developments over the summer allow us to check off at least a few reform boxes. We will monitor these and other reform developments over the autumn period.
The “stealth” privatization of Greece’s Agricultural Bank (ATE) through a rapidly implemented rescue plan including the sale of much of the ATE Bank’s network to Greece’s privately owned Piraeus Bank. This has set the stage for a new round of bank consolidations while moving a large number of banking outlets out of the public sector. ATE was split into a “viable” unit which was transferred to Piraeus Bank while the government will wind down the so-called “bad segment” of ATE, holding its non-performing assets. The Syriza opposition is challenging the plan’s implementation but for now the transfers have gone forward.
The beginning of the consolidation of Greece’s numerous public sector entities, with a number announced for closure or “transfer and consolidation.” The Samaras government announced its intentions to preserve all jobs in these organizations by offering transfers to effected employees. This is still a work in progress with another, larger group of organizations to be shut down set to be announced later this year.