Surplus grows, but so do arrears

Greece recorded a surplus of 1.8 billion euros at the general government level in the first half of 2014, against a primary deficit of 1.85 billion a year ago, according to data released by Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Thursday. However, the data also contain worrying aspects, showing that the surplus of social insurance funds has shrunk by 1 billion euros and that government services’ overdue payments to suppliers are on the rise. Outstanding payments owed by EOPYY, the country’s main public healthcare provider, shot past the 2-billion mark at the end of June, from 1.5 billion euros at the end of 2013. Hospitals’ overdue payments total 790 million.

In further detail, the surplus of social security organizations shrank to 410 million euros from 1.43 billion a year ago. Revenues in this category were contained to 17.04 billion euros from 19.7 billion due to the drastic cut in transfers from the state budget (to 6.86 billion from 9.7 billion) and a slight drop in social security contributions.

Overdue government payments rose to 5.2 billion euros at the end of June (including pending tax rebates of 666 million) from 4.9 billion at the start of the year.

Separately, the disbursement of the next 1-billion-euro bailout sub-tranche by Greece’s creditors will in all likelihood take place next week, after Parliament passes an omnibus bill with provisions required by the troika.

During a teleconference on Thursday, the government’s economic chiefs briefed the troika on all measures taken and the changes planned in the single property tax (ENFIA), which has caused an uproar. After publication of the bill in the Government Gazette, it will take the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) a couple of days to release the sub-tranche.

Greece’s unemployment rate receded further in May, to 27.2 percent, from 27.3 percent in April and 27.7 percent a year ago, according to figures released on Thursday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority. Registered jobless numbered 820,156 in June. Only two in 10 working people who lost their jobs during the crisis have been rehired.