Greek draft budget predicts growth, lower debt, unemployment easing in 2017


Greece on Monday presented its 2017 draft budget to parliament, projecting a strong return to economic growth of 2.7 percent and pledging to meet primary surplus targets set out by terms of its international bailout.

The draft projected a decline in public debt to 174.8 percent of gross domestic product, and unemployment easing to 22.4 percent.

It did not contain any specific reference on its return to financial markets, stating that its aim was to return 'the soonest possible'.

The primary surplus – the fiscal balance excluding debt servicing costs – was anticipated to reach 1.8 percent, compared to a slightly-above-target 0.63 percent in 2016.

With the exception of a brief blip in 2014 when the economy grew 0.7 percent, Greece has been mired in recession since 2008.

Two years later it received its first international bailout, followed by another in 2012 and its last in mid-2015. It has received about 240 billion euros in bailout loans so far.

Each has required higher taxes, pension cuts and higher taxes when, based on 2015 data, one person in five was living in poverty.

Under the terms of the bailout, Greece will impose a new round of taxes on fuel, telephony and some consumer items in 2017. It will also increase tax on tobacco next year.

Lingering public resentment brought hundreds of pensioners out to march in central Athens earlier on Monday over cutbacks to benefits.

Police made limited use of teargas when some of them attempted to overturn a police bus blocking the pensioners' path toward the official residence of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Some openly mocked projections of economic growth. "It's just a big fat lie," said Vassilis Bardas, 76. "This government are the biggest liars of all the others put together."