Greece says Eurostat to help with bailout review

Greek government says European Data will confirm it performed better than expected last year

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras looks on as he arrives to welcome Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa (not pictured) at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece April 11, 2016.

The Greek government said on Tuesday that European data this week will confirm it performed better than expected last year and help conclude a review of its reforms, adding that it would only implement more measures if it missed its 2018 targets.

A successful conclusion to the review of Athens' reforms and fiscal progress under an international bailout agreed last summer would unlock further aid that it needs to repay its debts and unpaid state bills.

The process has dragged on for months due partly to a rift among its international lenders over how the recession-hit economy will fare and whether it needs debt relief, and also due to Athens' resistance to imposing additional unpopular measures.

The European Union's statistics agency will say in a report on Thursday that Athens was in the black last year, spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said.

"The report to be released on Thursday will confirm a larger primary budget surplus compared to what had been initially projected," she told reporters. "The positive developments ... will be the basis for the conclusion of the review."

The primary budget in 2015 had been expected to show a deficit equivalent to 0.25 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to the bailout.

Talks between Greek ministers and inspectors of official lenders - the EU Commission, European Stability Mechanism, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - were set to resume again in Athens on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes that concluding the review will send a positive signal to markets and lure back investors, while a debt relief agreement will convince Greeks that their sacrifices are paying off after six years of belt-tightening.

EU institutions believe Greece could achieve a primary surplus in 2018 of 3.5 percent of GDP. The IMF, which will decide whether to co-finance the bailout after the review and in light of how much debt relief the country receives, says Greece will miss that target unless it implements more measures.

Gerovasili said that the adoption of additional measures now would pose an economic but not a political problem for the government, which has a thin parliamentary majority.

But, she said, Athens would be willing to go that route at a later stage if the 2018 target were to look unattainable.

"If the 2018 fiscal targets are not met, of course we would be obliged to take some extra measures to reach them," she said.

In an effort to speed up the talks, Athens unveiled a bill on pension and income tax reforms on Tuesday, aiming at savings of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

TRTWorld, Reuters