ECONOMY

Lew urges Greece to press on with reforms as basis for growth

US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said the US recognizes the difficult choices and sacrifices Greece has made and urged the country to continue with reforms.

“We know that Greece has passed through a very difficult period of adjustment and reform,” Lew said on Sunday in Athens after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, according to e-mailed comments from the US Treasury Department. “We recognize the difficult decisions and shared sacrifices of the last few years, as well as the challenges that remain.”

Lew, who also met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, is in the Greek capital following a two-day meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Moscow. The visit to Athens comes ahead of a meeting between Samaras and US President Barack Obama in Washington on August 8.

“The road ahead is still challenging,” Lew said. “Continued reform will be essential to laying the foundation for sustained growth.”

Lew’s visit follows a July 18 trip to Athens by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, hours after lawmakers passed a law that puts 25,000 state workers on notice for possible dismissal, a necessary condition to release the next tranche of loans from Greece’s international creditors.

Euro-area officials will discuss unlocking the payment in a July 24 teleconference. Samaras’s coalition was shaken last month by the departure of the Democratic Left party following the closure of state broadcaster ERT. His New Democracy party and coalition partner, the socialist Pasok party, control 155 of the parliament’s 300 seats.

Greece is in the sixth year of a recession with record unemployment prompted by the wage and pension cuts and tax increases demanded by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, which are providing the rescue funds.

Lew also said the US is recovering from its own financial crisis and that jobs and growth in the world’s largest economy are “inextricably linked” to Europe achieving growth and prosperity.

[Bloomberg]