ECONOMY

Surplus of 2 bln euros in January

January saw a budget surplus of almost 2 billion euros, against a 1.7-billion-euro surplus in the first month of 2011, according to the monthly bulletin on general government figures that the Finance Ministry published on Wednesday.

At the same time, the government?s outstanding debt grew to 5.86 billion euros from 5.78 billion in December 2011. This concerns debts to third parties that are overdue by at least 90 days.

The bulletin attributes the 2-billion-euro surplus to the increased revenues of social security funds, hospitals and local authorities, as on a central government level the surplus has actually contracted from 1.078 billion euros in January 2011 to 638 million this January.

Budget revenues came to 4.87 billion euros in January 250 million less than in the same month last year. Expenditure (not including interest payments) rose by 12.1 percent from January 2011, reaching 4.9 billion euros, compared to 4.3 billion last year. Interest payments declined by 136 million euros to 457 million, from 593 million in January 2012.

The 2011 fiscal deficit is now estimated at 19.87 billion euros, or 9.2 percent of gross domestic product, although the recent report by the European Commission in the context of the new bailout package estimated the deficit at 9.3 percent (20 billion euros). The definitive figures regarding last year?s deficit will be issued by the Commission at the end of March.

Inflation

Meanwhile Eurostat announced yesterday that inflation in Greece came to 1.7 percent on an annual basis, which was the second lowest in the eurozone after Ireland.

In the year?s first couple of months Greece?s average inflation stood at 1.7 percent, the lowest in the bloc. On average, prices climbed by an average of 2.7 percent in the eurozone in February.

Fuel once again had the greatest impact on inflation last month, as despite the recession, the country cannot remain unaffected by the rise in the international price of oil.