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Optimistic on Greece, says EU task force boss

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Greece is well on track in its efforts to improve how it monitors its finances, the head of the European Commission’s special task force said, while adding that its banking system remained in difficulty.

“I am optimistic as never before,” Horst Reichenbach told Austria’s Passauer Neue Presse newspaper in an article published on Saturday.

“The segment in the finance ministry which is responsible for pensions has greatly improved,” he noted.

Reichenbach, who heads the special task force to help rebuild the Greek economy, said carrying out sufficient tax audits at Greek companies and the country’s wealthy population remained challenging.

Turning to banks, however, Reichenbach was less optimistic.

“The financial problems of Greece’s banks pose great difficulties. The banks now need to be re-capitalized so that the economy can prosper.”

The EU task force of about 50 officials, most of whom visit Athens intermittently, advises ministries on measures needed to improve the country’s economic competitiveness and tax collection as well as on reform of the public sector.

It estimates that Greece could potentially collect about 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion) in tax arrears out of 60 billion euros owed to the state – equivalent to about a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.

Reichenbach said that Greece’s bureaucracy was a big hurdle to economic growth.

“The granting of licenses is a nightmare. It could take years,” he said, adding solving these problems had “absolute priority”. ($1 = 0.7540 euros)

Published Date: Sunday, March 25th, 2012 | 03:34 PM

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