After bailouts, Greece wants easier budget targets


Greece’s new conservative government says it wants to ease tough budget restrictions set by bailout lenders two years ahead of schedule, as lawmakers prepared Monday to formally confirm the new administration.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Athens will seek negotiations with creditors next year to lower targets for Greeces primary surplus, the annual budget balance before debt costs.

“We are determined to boost confidence in the economy by proceeding swiftly with real reforms under our ownership,” he told parliament. “In 2020, we will request from our partners the reduction of primary surpluses to more realistic levels.”

Greece pledged under the previous government to maintain primary surpluses worth 3.5 percent of gross domestic product through 2022. Lenders say that level is key to keeping Greece’s high national debt sustainable and have appeared cool to the idea of renegotiating the targets.

The issue was discussed in Athens last week at meetings between the senior representatives of creditor institutions and ministers from the new government.

Petsas repeated pledges by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was elected earlier this month, to introduce tax cut legislation and to scrap longstanding rules that limit police access to university campuses.

The government also plans to speed up privatizations plans, clear regulations blocking major investments and to toughen detention and deportation policies for migrants whose asylum applications are rejected.

Lawmakers were finishing a three-day debate before holding Monday night’s vote on whether to confirm Mitsotakis’ government, which took office the day after winning a July 7 general election. The election came nearly a year after Greece’s three successive bailout programs ended.

New governments in Greece must be confirmed by a vote of confidence after lawmakers are seated in the new session of parliament.

Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party has 158 seats in the 300-member parliament. [AP]