The International Monetary Fund (IMF) began inspecting Greece's public finances on Monday to make sure the government is implementing promised austerity measures before it gains access to a second rescue loan installment in mid-September. The inspectors arrived as strikes continued against the painful spending cuts and an overhaul of labour rules. A walkout by fuel-tanker drivers caused supply shortages in Athens, while serious departure delays were reported at Athens International Airport as air traffic controllers continued a work-to-rule protest started last week.
Officials from the European Union and European Central Bank are also taking part in the inspections in Athens and are due to remain through August 6. They met on Monday with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou.
Debt-ridden Greece narrowly avoided bankruptcy in May and was pledged up to euro110 billion ($142 billion) in rescue loans from the IMF and the 15 other EU countries using the euro. While in Athens, the inspectors will meet with at least five other cabinet ministers, union leaders, central bankers and the board of the newly independent Greek statistics agency, tasked with cleaning up a budget-figure misreporting scandal that helped trigger the country's crisis.
Greek financial officials said the latest scrutiny is expected to concentrate on massive public health care debts and the prospects of loss-making state enterprises like the National Railways. “The main thing is that we are on course for our (deficit reduction) targets,” said Ilias Plaskovitis, general secretary of the Finance Ministry. “Of course, there is always more to be done.”