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Eurogroup OKs Greek extension but puts off loan tranche, debt verdict for a week

Monday’s Eurogroup ended with eurozone finance ministers agreeing to extend Greece’s fiscal adjustment period by two years but deciding to put off until next week final decisions on the disbursement of the next Greek bailout tranche and the method to make the country’s debt sustainable.

The ministers are due to meet again on Tuesday, November 20 to wrap up the loose ends regarding the Greek program.

Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn praised the Greek government for passing the latest package of fiscal and structural reforms but International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde suggested that some “chapters” remain to be settled.

“The Eurogroup welcomes efforts by Greek authorities to bring program back on track,” said Juncker. “The Eurogroup acknowledges the considerable efforts of the Greek citizens.”

“All those who openly dismiss the potential of the Greek program to return fiscal sustainability should dwell on the improvement in the country’s structural budget balance,” said Rehn.

“Also, the perception that there has been no progress on structural reforms is wrong and unfair,” he added.

Juncker said that a number of ideas had been discussed regarding how to cover Greece’s financing gap over the next few years, as well as making its debt sustainable but that none were chosen or overuled. He said these decisions would be made next week.

The Luxembourg prime minister, however, said that rather than setting a target of Greek debt being at 120 percent of GDP in 2020, the deadline may be extended by two years to 2022.

Lagarde said the Fund had “different views” on the timetable but that everything was still up for discussion.

“All avenues available to reduce Greek debt are being explored and will continue to be explored in the coming days,” she said.

The troika's debt sustainability report will see Greek debt at 144 percent of GDP in 2020, and 134 percent in 2022 if there are no efforts to reduce it over the next few years, Reuters reported.

Juncker said it was his “personal opinion” that official sector involvement (OSI), the writing down of Greek debt held by the ECB and eurozone countries, would not be one of the options for restructuring chosen by the Eurogroup.

Rehn, meanwhile, insisted that there would be no problems on Friday, when Greece has to rollover 5 billion euros of debt. It is planning to do so by issuing T-bills and Rehn said Greek banks would be in a position to buy them even if they are cut off from the Eurosystem.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday November 13, 2012 (01:03)  
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