Exclusive: Greece scrapes bottom of barrel in hunt for cash to stay afloat

Fri Apr 17, 2015 1:10pm EDT
 
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Deepa Babington

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will need to tap all the remaining cash reserves across its public sector -- a total of 2 billion euros ($2.16 billion) -- to pay civil service wages and pensions at the end of the month, according to finance ministry officials.

Barring a last-ditch deal with its creditors, that is likely to leave no money to repay the International Monetary Fund almost 1 billion euros due in the first half of May, although Greece has said it wants to honor its debt obligations. Athens' scramble for basic funds shows how extreme the financial constraints on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have become as he tries to convince skeptical foreign creditors to extend his country new financial aid.

Greece's finance ministry denied that it would need to tap remaining cash reserves to meet salary payments, without providing any figures.

"News agencies' reports that refer to the state's cash reserves are groundless, we categorically deny them," the ministry said in a short statement on Friday.

Officials from Greece and the lenders are meeting in Brussels on Saturday for a new round of negotiations ahead of a key euro zone finance ministers' meeting in Riga on April 24.

"This is the last bit of cash that the Greek state has," a senior finance ministry official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

Euro zone officials have voiced scepticism about previous Greek warnings of empty coffers, although even they acknowledge a crunch is nearing.

The Bruegel economic think-tank said in an analysis that the government's financial assets could buy it more time.   Continued...

 
Greek national flags are on display at a shop in central Athens April 17, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis