The annual IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings started in Washington on Friday, with the Greek debt once again in the spotlight.
Most of the key players of the Greek saga are in town to try to facilitate a last-minute agreement between Athens’ left-wing government and the country’s international lenders.
Official talks are scheduled for Saturday in Paris to discuss Greece’s massive bailout programme and the reforms it must adopt in exchange for urgently needed funds.
Greece has already been rescued by two EU-IMF bailouts to the tune of 240 billion euros since 2010.
Athens has said it is ready to make some efforts to reform its economy and cut its debt, but it continues to see austerity as the problem, not the solution. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in Washington that persisting to impose austerity measures would only reinforce the narrative of Greece as a “bottomless pit”.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Reuters he was “firmly optimistic” a deal would be reached by the end of the month, despite friction over issues such as pension and labour reforms.
Time is running out: Athens is due to repay the IMF about 1 billion euros in May.
There has been growing speculation as to whether and when Greece might be forced to exit the euro zone. Various EU representatives have rejected such a scenario, including including EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who nonetheless urged the Greek government to carry out a “substantial and ambitious” set of reforms as quickly as possible.