BUSINESS

Stournaras '100pct certain' 2013 will be last year of Greek recession

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras says he is 100 percent certain that 2013 will be Greece’s last year of recession.

The country’s economic downturn started in 2008 but speaking to the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens, Stournaras said Greeks had reason to be optimistic.

"I feel sure, 100 percent certain that this will be the last year of Greece's recession," he said. “Towards the last quarter of 2013, we are going to have recovery."

The probability of Greece leaving the euro - Grexit - is now very small," Stournaras added.

"We have managed to turn the economy around. From the markets, there's much more optimism. Deposits are coming back to banks, the government is paying its arrears to the private sector and there is a change in how Europe sees us. So all the leading indicators are positive. We are two-thirds of the way towards our target. So people can have hope."

Stournaras repeated previous comments that Greece was open to the idea of another debt reduction but remained tight-lipped about how this should happen.

"I would welcome a reduction of the level of debt - but there are many ways to achieve that," he said. "But it should happen in a way that minimises the loss to other parties."

Stournaras was also candid about the mistakes made by Greece and its lenders over the country’s fiscal adjustment program.

"Greece was forced to cut too far, too fast," he said. "In hindsight, we should have placed more emphasis on structural reform and privatisations at the start. But we can't go back. There's no point crying over spilt milk. The eurozone was not prepared for the crisis."

Stournaras also responded to a question about a possible British exit from the European Union by insisting that there should no scope for the country to renegotiate the terms of its EU membership.

"It would be a grave mistake for Britain to leave the EU,” he said. "Britain belongs to Europe politically, financially and from a cultural point of view."

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