Greece debt crisis: Desperation sets in as talks grind on

Pensioners in Athens (30 April) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Greece's biggest pension fund has had to take a loan to ensure it can pay its members

So Greece has successfully completed its latest €750m (£538m) debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but even that news has a twist in the tail.

Greek officials say most of the money was taken from a buffer account held at the IMF itself - an account that is only meant to be used in cases of emergency.

In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis used his visit to Brussels on Monday to re-state the obvious - the liquidity situation is "terribly urgent", he said, and a deal to release further funds was needed in the next couple of weeks.

A word of caution. If every warning from either Athens or Brussels that Greece was about to run out of money had proven to be true, the country would have gone bankrupt several times already.

But with no new money coming in from its international lenders since August last year, the situation has become desperate.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Greece faces a punishing schedule of debt repayments through the summer months

'Knife to the throat'

Greece's largest pension fund, the Social Security Foundation, has decided to take €360m in short term loans to try to ensure that it can pay its members at the end of the month.

Most government suppliers haven't been paid since January.

As it casts around for cash, the government has said it has raised a total of €600m from local governments and other public entities. But it had been hoping for more - many municipalities have refused to co-operate.

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Media captionSyriza MP Costas Lapavitsas says any deal would need a clear mandate from the Greek people

So, sooner rather than later, the money is going to run out. Greece faces a punishing schedule of debt repayments through the summer months.

The use of the funds from the IMF buffer account has bought a little more time, but it is touch and go whether there will be enough money to pay all public sector salaries at the end of the month.

Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas said the ongoing debt talks were like "negotiating with a knife held to your throat".

And there is a substantial faction within the party that believes no deal would be better than a deal that fails to meet the majority of Syriza's election promises.

Who is not getting paid?

Employees in the following sectors have told the BBC they are not receiving some government payments:

  • Health suppliers
  • On-call doctors
  • Military contractors
  • Publishers

Greeks see cash run out in undeclared default

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Image caption Many in Greece are watching to see whether Syriza manages to keep its pre-election promises

Opinion polls have suggested consistently that a majority of Greeks want a solution and want to stay in the euro.

But the price they may have to pay for that will be far higher than Syriza had hoped, when it was elected in January promising to end austerity.

So far, it has been a steep learning curve in the realities of eurozone politics.

Is a referendum the answer - asking the Greek people for a fresh mandate?

"If the Greek government thinks it must hold a referendum, then let it hold one," shrugged German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

It would be a choice, he concluded, between "accepting what is necessary, or accepting something different".