(Corrects timing of comment in final paragraph.)
Greece and its international inspectors are racing to find agreement on economic policies ahead of the Oct. 18 summit of European Union leaders, where Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will seek more time to implement the budget cuts required to keep funds flowing.
Fiscal and structural policies will be decided at the summit, a Greek Finance Ministry official told reporters in Athens yesterday after talks between the so-called troika from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and European Commission, and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras. Another meeting will be held today.
Samaras is seeking to spread pension and wage cuts over four rather than two years to meet deficit-cutting targets and smooth the impact on an economy set to shrink for a sixth year. The official said yesterday the downturn next year, forecast at 3.8 percent in a draft budget presented earlier this month, is being worsened by health fund debts and poor implementation sparked by a political impasse in May and June.
A primary surplus, or a surplus before interest payments, is projected to be 1.5 percent of GDP in 2014, instead of 1.1 percent next year as forecast in the budget, said the official, who asked not to be identified, in line with ministry policy. Without the additional two years Samaras is seeking, Greece would need to take 18 billion euros of budget measures to meet a goal of a surplus of 4.5 percent in 2014 instead of the 13.5 billion euros it’s currently working on identifying, he said.
A deal with the troika is needed to unlock a 31 billion- euro aid installment that the Greek government needs to recapitalize its banks and pay debts.
Speculation in Europe about a Greek exit from the euro has grown this year as public opposition in Greece to spending cuts widened, authorities stalled on slashing the budget, and the country held an inconclusive election in May and a rerun the following month. The June vote produced a pro-euro coalition led by Samaras of the New Democracy party.
Greece also needs to commit to a list of 89 policy steps before the Oct. 18-19 leaders’ summit. The official said yesterday a tax system overhaul will be one of the policy actions that needs to be approved by Parliament before the tranche can be paid.
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