EIB may pitch in with cheap money

The European Investment Bank (EIB) said yesterday it could offer Greece up to 1 billion euros at «favorable» interest rates to help kick-start European Union funding programs aimed at upgrading the country’s infrastructure. However, it added that it has not been asked to take part in any rescue plan for the indebted eurozone member. The EU’s 2007-2013 funding program for Greece is budgeted at 26.2 billion euros but the money has remained largely untapped due to red tape and a requirement that the goverment pay an average of 25 to 30 percent of each project with its own money. «If asked, we can partially fund the Greek government’s participation in these projects,» EIB Vice President Plutarchos Sakellaris told reporters. «We can offer a favorable interest rate on this amount. Up to 250 basis points lower than what Greece is currently borrowing at.» Last year, the EIB, the European Union’s lending bank, said it pumped 1.6 billion euros in funds into the Greek economy, an increase of 38 percent over 2008, to help finance industrial, tourism, energy and service projects in the country. For 2010, the lender expects to provide financing at «similiar levels.» Regarding talk that the EIB may play a role in helping to bail out Greece from its debt problems, Sakellaris said it hasn’t been asked to do so and that its charter would not allow it to participate in any rescue plan.

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