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Greek spending cuts programme not yet finalised: government

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(ATHENS) - Greece's coalition government has yet to agree on its much-anticipated 11.5 billion euros spending cuts programme for 2013 and 2014, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in Athens on Tuesday.

"11.5 billion is an important number. We are not there yet, we are still 3.5-4 billion euros away," said Stournaras after a meeting with President Carolos Papoulias.

Stournaras denied cutting public sector jobs is back on the table, but said placing state employees on a labour reserve scheme remains a possibility.

Greece's previous government had considered last winter placing 15,000 public sector employees on labour reserve by the end of 2012.

Stournaras, who had various meetings with the so-called troika of auditors from Greece's EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank creditors last week, said negotiations will continue until the end of August.

The troika departed from Athens on Sunday on a positive note, with Poul Thomsen from the IMF stating that "we made good progress."

The auditors are expected to return to Greece in September.

Struggling with a fifth year of continuous recession, Greece has falled behind in the implementation of structural reforms that are part of the EU-IMF bailout packages which are keeping its economy afloat.

Back-to-back elections in May and June resulted in a two-month political deadlock that got the country's reform programme off track, amid mounting international pressure.

The government has to cut 11.5 billion euros off expenditure over the next two years in order to unlock the next installment of its 130 billion euro bailout package -- the second for the cash-stripped country in two years.

The troika's report will determine whether the indebted country will receive the much-needed sum.

Yesterday, Stournaras also said that the government decided to accelerate its privatisation programme, by adopting a new law "containing 77 administrative acts aiming to speed up privatisations."


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