Greece on course for 2013 surplus after hitting Jan-Aug target, says minister

Greece’s central government had a primary budget surplus of almost 3 billion euros between January and August, the country’s deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras said on Tuesday.

Excluding one-off revenues from European central banks, the surplus stood at 1.5 billion euros, the minister added. Greece continues to meet its budget targets and stay on course to hit a primary surplus at general government level at the end of the year, he said.

The ministry said that Belgium and Portugal rolled over their ANFA holdings of Greek government bonds in August.

Reaching a primary surplus, which excludes interest payments on the country’s debt, is the main goal of debt-laden Greece’s government. Hitting that target would trigger a clause in its international bailout allowing Athens to seek additional debt relief from its lenders.

The reading announced on Tuesday, however, provides just an approximate indication of how Greece’s finances are shaping up. It is not directly comparable with its bailout targets as it excludes the budgets of local government and pension funds.

It is also on a cash basis, whereas the budget figures against which Greece’s performance is judged will be based on an accrual (ESA) basis, which classifies revenues and expenses under a different methodology.

Staikouras said that the first eight months of the year showed a surplus of 2.9 billion euros, against a deficit of 1.4 billion during the same period last year. The target was for a surplus of 2.5 billion euros.

“The execution of the state budget with regard to the general government during the first eight months of 2013 confirms the trend for public finances to be improving,” said the ministry statement.

The Finance Ministry was also pleased with tax revenues, which came in at 4.3 billion euros for August. This was 400 million euros better than the target.

It said that revenues from indirect taxes beat their target by 26.5 percent and offset the poor performance from income tax.

[Reuters & Kathimerini]

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