ATHENS, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Greece launched on Sunday a new round of talks with auditors of European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders which will determine the release of the next bailout tranche to Athens this month.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held a first meeting with two of the heads of the "troika" representatives at his office in Athens, opening a series of deliberations until March 10 in the context of the regular review of Greece's progress under the bailout program agreed with international creditors since 2010.
"The climate was very positive. They acknowledge the efforts made over the past few months," Stournaras commented after the meeting.
On top of the agenda this time, according to government sources, are thorny issues such as the reduction of the number of 150,000 public servants by 2015 and high unemployment, revenues collection, tax system reform to counter wide-spread tax evasion, privatizations and the ongoing bank recapitalization.
Creditors, who keep debt-laden Greece afloat with multi-billion euro rescue loans to avert a chaotic default in the eurozone in exchange of a tough austerity and reform program, push for swifter steps, as Athens lags on timetables and targets set.
Under the heavy burden of deep recession for a sixth year and record high unemployment rates of more than 27 percent, Greek officials request more breathing space to avoid social upheaval.
The average Greek citizen already suffers from waves of cuts on salaries, pensions and tax hikes with incomes having been slashed by up to 40 percent in three years.
"There cannot be layoffs," Stournaras told local media this weekend regarding the pressure on public sector job cuts. He explained that over the past two years the sector has shrunk by some 75,000 through retirement, arguing that the rate of retirements and the ongoing new mobility scheme should meet the goals by 2015.