BUSINESS

Greece meets budget target for more debt relief from creditors

Greece met the budget goal set by its euro-area partners as a condition for talks on further debt relief.

The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras recorded a primary budget surplus, which excludes interest payments, of 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) last year, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The figures are a “reflection of the remarkable progress that Greece has made in repairing its public finances since 2010,” commission spokesman Simon O’Connor told reporters in Brussels.

Greece’s euro-area partners said in November 2012 that when the government in Athens registers a primary surplus they will “consider further measures and assistance” to help Greece meet the targets set out in its rescue-aid agreement.

That deal foresees a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio “substantially lower” than 110 percent in 2022. Separate data on Wednesday showed Greece’s debt pile reached 175.1 percent of GDP in 2013, a euro-era record.

Seeking to bolster a shaky two-party coalition government, Samaras is keen to obtain a political reward for his cost- cutting measures before European legislative elections next month.

While euro-area finance ministers could kick-start discussions on debt relief for Greece at their next meeting on May 5, O’Connor said on Wednesday that the matter will not be taken up until after the summer.

Wednesday’s announcement comes four years to the day since former Prime Minister George Papandreou used a televised address to call for a financial lifeline to bolster Greece’s fragile economy. Since then Greece has gone through the world’s biggest sovereign-debt restructuring and has so far received 240 billion euros in aid commitments. To receive payments, the country has faced a series of economic conditions including labor-market reforms and budget goals.

[Bloomberg]

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