NEWS

Finance chief on budget watch

Greece’s release from EU fiscal supervision, which has yet to be determined, won’t translate into the government being more lenient with the country’s funds, Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday in Brussels. «The lifting of the supervision does not pose an excuse for benefits,» Alogoskoufis told journalists after attending a meeting of EU finance ministers. «It does not mean budget problems have been completely handled,» he added. But the finance chief did not want to speculate when the EU’s deficit control plan for Greece would actually end, saying that he could not «risk making a forecast.» Government sources said Alogoskoufis is keen to see an end to the EU’s scrutiny of Greece’s state finances, which has kept the country’s government under pressure. But the sources also added that an extension of the supervision would also keep at bay ministers who want to pad their budgets. Meanwhile, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia presented data yesterday regarding Greek credit growth in the 2003-2006 period, which rose by 88 percent. Figures also showed that Greek household lending in 2008 is expected to rise to 67 percent of gross domestic product versus an estimated average of 66 percent in the eurozone.