All-Around Pressure Marks Greek Negotiations

Creditors, government being pushed to accept less

For creditors, it's lower repayment and a lower interest rate. For Greece itself, it's cutting jobs, spending and pensions. And for the holders of Greece's next bailout purse strings, it's resisting pressure by Greece to reduce its strenuous insistence on so much austerity.

That tough situation surrounds Greece on all sides as negotiations continue with its debt holders and its rescuers. Reuters reported Friday that the European Union and International Monetary Fund are pressuring Greece to implement still more austerity measures that include replacing only one out of every five civil servants who depart the workforce and making additional cuts in defense and health care spending.

Both bodies want to see these measures enacted before they decide to open their coffers for the troubled country's next bailout. Greek politicians, however, are hesitant to push through such draconian measures prior to elections that could see irate citizens vote them from office.

Greece is not the only one in the hot seat, however. Bloomberg reported that Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, is keeping the heat on Greece's creditors to make further concessions on how much they will accept in repayment for the sovereign debt they hold. Private creditors have been holding out for a higher interest rate on new bonds to be swapped for old, but Lagarde and others say that their current offer means Greece's debt will continue to be unsustainable even after cuts in repayment are made.

Talks earlier in the week on both sets of issues failed to resolve either the interest rate standoff or the dilemma on austerity measures, but both sides are coming back to the negotiating table–with the former resuming Friday and the latter expected to continue well into next week as Greece tries to push back against some of the measures sought by the troika–the IMF, the EU, and the European Central Bank.

Lagarde was quoted saying in a Friday interview at Davos, “Until now it was not appropriate to accept the creditors’ offer, so I’m pleased to see they’re back to the drawing board.”

Negotiations may be in vain, however, if hedge funds continue to resist any loss in repayment. Some are holding out for a triggering of credit default swaps and according to a Barclays Capital report, only 50% of investors will be bound by any agreement between Greece and the Institute of International Finance, which represents banks holding Greek sovereign debt in the ongoing negotiations. That will leave hedge funds free to hold out for more and will likely trigger a default by Greece on its debt.

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