ECONOMY

Summit ?very positive? for Greece

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou described decisions reached at last week?s European Union summit as being ?very positive? for Greece but also admitted that the government?s revenue problems are continuing this month.

?It remains to be seen whether the decisions taken will suffice to change market sentiment because we see these decisions were taken at the same time that we have a governing crisis in Portugal, something which obviously doesn?t make things easier,? he told Flash radio on Monday.

EU leaders at the March 24-25 summit in Brussels ratified a previous decision from eurozone governments allowing Greece more time to repay a loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund at a cheaper rate.

Eurozone leaders have agreed to extend the repayment period of the 80 billion euros Greece got from its EU partners to 7.5 years from three years and to slash the interest rate to 4.8 percent from 5.8 percent. Greece also got a 30-billion-euro loan from the International Monetary Fund last year. Additionally, it was decided that bailed-out countries will be able to tap the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) if they are unable to access bond markets.

Turning to the lagging revenues, the minister said that this is continuing. ?It will take take for revenues to rebound,? he said.

Data released by the Finance Ministry recently showed that Greece?s central government budget deficit increased 8.5 percent in the first two months of the year to 1.024 billion euros from 944 million a year earlier.

Ordinary budget revenues reached 7.9 billion euros, down 9.1 percent on an annual basis.

Papaconstantinou also reiterated Greece?s economy is seen returning to growth at the end of 2011 after contracting for several years.

The Greek economy is expected to shrink 3 percent this year, after a 4.5 percent recession last year, according to European Union estimates.