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Monday, September 9, 2013

PM: Greece will return to growth in 2014


ATHENS: Greece’s prime minister says he is confident his country will return to growth in 2014 after a brutal six-year recession, and pledges to push for an easing of austerity measures.
Antonis Samaras said international organisations were all predicting 2014 would be the year the Greek economy began to recover, and credited unpopular austerity policies for the turnaround.
“Greece is turning the page on six years of recession and the economy is becoming competitive,” said the conservative prime minister, who has headed a coalition government with the socialist party since June 2012.
“Last year the international media were all talking about the ‘Grexit’, but now that has been replaced by the ‘Grecovery’.”
His comments, in a speech at a trade fair in the northern city of Thessaloniki, came amid signs that the extremely deep recession in Greece is easing.
Revised data for gross domestic product in the second quarter of the year showed last week that the economy shrank by 3.8% on a 12-month comparison.
This was far better than the initial estimate, which showed the economy shrinking by 4.6%.
The government has forecast the economy will shrink by 4.3% this year before returning to growth in 2014.
Samaras said he was optimistic that Greece would for the first time in years record a budget surplus in 2013, excluding debt repayments.
During the first seven months of 2013, the surplus reached 1.1 billion euros (US$1.45bil), he said, adding this would enable the country to negotiate with its creditors, the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Greece has received massive rescue funding, tied to tough conditions, from the EU and the IMF to help it overcome a debt crisis which threatened the eurozone.
However, the a resulting structural reforms, including an overhaul of its public sector and its tax system, have proved unpopular.
On Saturday, Samaras promised no further austerity measures would be introduced, saying the economy “cannot take” them any more.
“Debt levels will be manageable, Greece has respected its commitments... now, the creditors must also respect what was agreed,” he added.
The EU and the IMF recently praised the Greek government’s progress in turning the economy around, but bemoaned delays to a programme of privatisation and reform, and the fact that the country will likely need further aid in 2014 and 2015 amounting to around 10 billion euros. – AFP

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