BUSINESS

Schaeuble says euro area working on Greek economic action plan

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Greece and other euro-area governments are discussing ways to bundle measures to boost economic growth in the bloc’s most indebted nation.

Schaeuble, speaking to reporters in Athens, reiterated Germany’s commitment made last year to provide funds from state- owned and guaranteed lender KfW to the Institution for Growth in Greece development fund, for disbursal to the country’s small and medium-sized businesses.

“We have -- bilaterally as well as in the Eurogroup -- occupied ourselves with and pushed hard for making the improvement of growth conditions in Greece increasingly the focus of efforts,” Schaeuble said after a two-day meeting of European Union finance chiefs. “We are in talks with the Greek government that we, together with the Eurogroup, bundle the different measures to improve growth conditions in an action plan.”

Greece’s debt mountain forced it to seek two bailouts since 2010 and triggered turmoil across the euro region. While the euro area has now emerged from its longest-ever recession, unemployment in the bloc remains at 11.9 percent, close to the record level it reached last year. Greece’s unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent in the fourth quarter from 27 percent in the preceding three-month period.

The EU’s “major social problems” need to be addressed if the 28-nation bloc is to recover from the debt crisis it has endured for four years, according to a paper from the Brussels- based policy group Bruegel, discussed by finance ministers during their stay in Athens.

Schaeuble also said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government is eligible for more financial help if existing aid and planned bond sales don’t suffice to meet spending needs.

“If Greece has a primary surplus, if Greece meets its obligations,” euro-region governments will determine around the middle of the year whether Greece needs more money, Schaeuble said. “If there is a need, one will help; if there is no need, then it’s also fine.”

[Bloomberg]

Online