Series of surpluses just started

After recording a positive result in the 2013 budget by 3.38 bln euros, Athens expects lightening of debt By Sotiris Nikas

Greece’s primary budget surplus last year came to 3.38 billion euros, according to figures that the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) forwarded on Monday to Eurostat, which is set to confirm the data on April 23, paving the way for the adoption of extra measures to lighten Greece’s debt load.

Technically, ELSTAT’s calculation points to a primary surplus of 1.4 billion euros, as the country’s statistics agency has used the troika inspectors’ method of determining revenues, but this changes nothing about the so-called social dividend that the government has said it will distribute to taxpayers.

The primary balance of the general government’s budget for 2013 had a deficit of 15.89 billion euros, but that also included the one-off support given to banks amounting to 19.27 billion euros. This means that when the banks’ effect is taken out the primary surplus amounts to 3.38 billion and Eurostat is expected to confirm that unreservedly.

Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras stated on Monday that the figures formally confirmed “the estimates and the forecasts of the government for a primary surplus in 2013.” A senior ministry official said that what really matters is that Greece has entered an extended period of primary surpluses, while Staikouras added that what the country needs now is “the further enriching of the economic policy with actions and initiatives toward growth.”

Indeed primary surpluses appear to be persisting, with the first quarter of this year also showing that budget revenues have exceeded expenditure by 1.56 billion euros, against a target for 878 million euros, Finance Ministry data showed yesterday.

This was despite a revenue shortfall amounting to 720 million euros, which is mostly attributed to a 364-million increased in tax rebates, and the extension granted to the payment of corporate taxes adding up to 250 million. The latter will not be paid before May. Budget net revenues added up to 10.6 billion euros in the year to end-March, missing their target by about 6.3 percent, the data revealed.