“Greek economy is just one step away from a recovery, but needs debt relief, not further austerity, to cross the finish line”, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Euronews on Thursday (21.4), as Eurostat data, also released yesterday, showed that Greece had attained a primary surplus of 0.7 percent of GDP in 2015, comfortably beating a target for a 0.25 percent deficit in its bailout programme.
In an exclusive interview with EURONEWS (21.4), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras explained how Greece and his government performed exceedingly well in absorbing funds, keeping expenditure low, and achieving an excellent track on tourism, despite the difficult hurdles they faced during 2015, with elections, a referendum, closed banks and the unprecedented refugee crisis that fell almost entirely upon Greece’s shoulders.
The Greek premier emphasized that the aim to achieve a “non-aggressive fiscal adjustment” is of prime concern to the government as it guarantees the protection of the weaker members of society as well as of the national health and education systems. Reiterating that the agreement for the third international bailout of July 2015 will be honoured, Tsipras expressed his concern over the IMF’s insistence to push for more austerity, arguing that the Fund has made “wrong choices and wrong forecasts”…“The country will exit the crisis and our parliamentary majority is sufficient, as long as we don’t let some people place additional burdens to those already anticipated in the agreement. And surely they have no excuse to insist on something like this because the results, the figures and reality itself contradicts them”, the premier noted.
EUROSTAT data released yesterday (21.4) revealed that Greece’s primary surplus for 2015 was 0.7% of the GDP, while the Greek debt fell from 184% of the GDP in 2014, to 176.9% in 2015. Greece’s economic progress has been a sticking point in ongoing talks on the review of Greece’s adjustment and reform program, which have dragged on for months as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund argue over whether Greece can achieve a 3.5 percent primary surplus in 2018. Athens and the EU believe the target is feasible. The IMF considers it too optimistic and says debt relief is essential, combined with additional measures. Having surpassed the IMF’s projection for a Primary Deficit of 0,6% of the GDP for 2015, the Greek government is trying to conclude the review in the next days and cement its position that it can achieve its 2018 fiscal targets and that it does not need to take additional measures now as suggested by the IMF. But due to different growth and fiscal performance assumptions, international lenders remain divided over whether Greece needs debt relief and on what will be agreed mainly on the fiscal issues, which remain a thorny topic on the discussion agenda.
While EU officials disagree with the IMF’s stance on extra measures, they do insist that Athens must implement reforms, legislate contingency measures and complete talks on debt relief, reminding also that the road ahead is still long, since any agreement for unlocking financial aid must also be approved by some parliaments in eurozone member states, while Greece will still have to continue working hard to meet its budget targets over the next three years. However on Wednesday (20.04), European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stood firmly on Greece’s side, saying that Athens should not need extra measures to complete the ongoing review. “We, as the Commission, are of the opinion that our figures are right and there is no need for contingency measures”, Juncker said in an interview with euro2day.gr, adding that the positive financial outcome of 2015 in Greece will influence the International Monetary Fund to ask less contingency measures for 2018.
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