By Sotiris Nikas
The government is close to reaching an agreement with creditor representatives on the level of Greece’s primary surplus for 2013, a senior Finance Ministry official said on Tuesday.
The official explained that the two sides had agreed on the figures for the execution of the 2013 budget, although some “marginal differences” still exist regarding the course of the figures for January and February 2014 which are inscribed in last year’s budget.
The signals are positive, as according to data that Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras published on Tuesday, the 2013 general government budget presented a primary deficit of 451 million euros on a cash basis at the end of January 2014 against a target for a deficit of 1.377 billion euros – i.e. 926 million euros better than expected.
However it is the target of the Fiscal Policy Program, which the country’s creditors take into account when determining the course of Greece’s streamlining process, that truly matters. Finance Ministry officials expect the primary surplus target of 812 million euros to be exceeded, while the primary surplus as calculated by Eurostat could even surpass 3.9 billion euros.
A senior Finance Ministry official said on Tuesday it is still impossible to make a safe forecast regarding the eventual size of the primary surplus for 2013 on a fiscal basis, as the first two months of 2014 have not yet been completed and part of their figures are included in last year’s budget.
The same official noted that the ministry and the creditor representatives are now engaged in establishing the positive impact of the 2013 primary surplus on the 2014 budget. Asked if this would cover the 2014 fiscal gap, he noted that he did not believe there was “a fiscal gap for 2014 and the current data are vindicating our view,” therefore ruling out the requirement for new austerity measures this year aimed at covering a budget gap.
Ministry officials poignantly stressed yesterday that the Greek side has forwarded data concerning the course of the country’s finances to the creditors, but has not yet received a response.