Deficit cut but still trails target

Greece’s central government budget deficit shrank 27.4 percent in the year to November, compared to a targeted annual reduction of 33.2 percent, the Finance Ministry said yesterday. The central government budget deficit, which excludes spending by local government and social security organizations, stood at 18.62 billion euros from 25.63 billion in the same period in 2009, according to provisional data. Revenues for the 11-month period rose at an annual pace of 4.8 percent to 45.3 billion euros, falling short of an annual 6 percent growth target. However, the government expects to cover lost ground in December. «A further improvement in revenues is foreseen in the next month due to the payment of road tax, the extension of the tax amnesty deadline and the collection of overdue taxes, such as those related to property,» the ministry said in a statement. Spending was cut 6.5 percent year-on-year to 58.2 billion euros, versus an annual target of 7.5 percent. Greece expects to slash the general government budget shortfall by six percentage points to 9.4 percent of gross domestic product this year. Meanwhile, the government plans to hire advisers by the end of this month to oversee the sale of as much as 1.1 billion euros in government assets next year. Greece plans to raise up to 300 million euros extending a lease on Athens International Airport, according to a report to the European Union, which was released yesterday. It’s hoping to bring in as much as 200 million euros from the sale of a stake in public gas company DEPA. Greece is changing its labor laws, cutting wages, selling assets and reorganizing state-run companies to meet conditions of the 110-billion-euro EU-led bailout in May. The country’s 11 most unprofitable state companies had combined sales of 1.5 billion euros in 2009 and registered losses of 1.7 billion euros, according to government figures.

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