Greece: Central bank backs post-bailout contingency loan
By DEREK GATOPOULOS
Dec. 21, 2017
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Angering the country's government, Greece's central bank governor on Thursday said he would welcome a precautionary credit line from bailout lenders after the international rescue program officially ends in August.
Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras said in a report that a contingency credit scheme could have a "supportive effect" on the Greek economy.
His remarks rekindled spat between Stournaras and the left-wing government which has promised a "clean exit" from the bailout and a full return to markets, ending eight painful years of rescue programs.
Stournaras served as finance minister under the previous conservative-led government.
A government official Thursday reacted angrily to Stournaras' suggestion.
"Just because a failed finance minister from a failed government had favored a credit line, instead of a return to markets, does not mean that a successful government can't do things better," he said, asking not to be named pending official comment.
The spat broke as Greece heads into the final year of the bailout, under pressure from lenders to resolve a long list of outstanding problems over the next few months.
Lawmakers late Thursday approved tougher restrictions against anti-bailout protesters who have sought to block the auction of homes that have gone into default because their owners can't meet mortgage payments.
They debated draft legislation that would impose three and six-month minimum jail sentences on activists that gather regularly at courts to disrupt the auctions.
About 500 Communist Party supporters took part in a peaceful demonstration outside Parliament late Thursday against the new regulations, a day after clashes between protesters and police.
The government promised bailout lenders that it will restart auctions, and introduce online transactions, to try and reduce the huge number of bad loans at Greek banks that are hindering the country's economic recovery from recession.
Anti-government campaigners argue that vulnerable households will no longer be protected from home seizures.
The outgoing head of a parliamentary budget oversight committee warned that unless the auctions proceed, banks could be forced to impose a haircut on depositors — a measure that has been emphatically ruled out by the government.
Also Thursday, Greece's privatization agency said it has signed an agreement with an international consortium for the sale of a 67 percent stake in the Port of Thessaloniki — the country's second-largest city — for 232 million euros ($275 million).
The transaction is expected to be completed early next year, the agency said.
Under its bailout commitments, Greece has agreed to sell off large parcels of state holdings to private investors.
Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed. Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos