Grexit to be hell: warns Greek industry chief

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The past six years of painful sacrifices Greeks made under two bailouts to avert default "will look like paradise compared to the hell of a Grexit," a prominent representative of Greece's commerce and industry warned on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras headed to Brussels for crunch talks on a debt deal.

"If during the past six years we lost 25 percent of our GDP, return to the national currency drachma will cost us 40 percent of our purchasing power in one day. It could eventually reach 60-70 percent within weeks," Constantinos Michalos, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, told a special parliamentary committee exploring the circumstances that led to the bailouts by the International Monetary Fund and European partners.

Michalos warned a Grexit nightmare would await Greece should a deal not be struck within the next few days.

Tsipras is expected to depart for Belgium on Wednesday evening to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to further negotiations between Greece and international creditors.

According to media reports, Juncker will put on the table a draft deal proposal drawn up by Greece's lenders, while Tsipras will argue Athens' final proposal for an "honest compromise" on a new set of fiscal adjustment measures and reforms the debt-laden country would implement in exchange of further aid.

Time is running out as Athens faces a crucial deadline this Friday. Greece needs to repay a 305 million euros (343 million U.S. dollars) loan installment to the IMF on June 5 and more later in June and throughout the summer.

Many Greek officials have warned several times lately that Athens might not be able to cover its financial obligations without a deal, after struggling to make ends meet in the spring.

Ahead of the talks with Juncker, Tsipras, who was elected on an anti-austerity platform in January, expressed his confidence that Europe will eventually adopt a "realistic" outlook to resolve the Greek debt crisis for the benefit of a united continent.

According to Greek government sources, the two sides have narrowed the initial gap between their diverging views in several key issues, such as the targets for primary budget surpluses in 2015 and 2016 and pension reforms.

However, according to the same sources, there were still steps needed to be made in regards to labor market reforms and the sustainability of the Greek debt load.

A Euro Working Group conference scheduled for Wednesday was moved to Thursday, as Michalos, officials and analysts from both sides warned that each day passing by in uncertainty costs dearly to the Greek economy and society and the risk of a default and Grexit increased. Endit

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