Twice bailed-out Greece has made enough progress in stabilising itspublic finances to make another international rescue less likely but its total debtremains dangerously high, an EU report showed on Friday.
"Greece has made delayed but eventually substantive progress" since mid-2013,when aid payments were delayed after Athens failed to meet tough targets laiddown by its creditors."The fiscal performance continued to be strong," the European Commission reportsaid, with Greece reporting a better-than-expected primary budget surplus in 2013.The surplus -- the budget balance before interest payments and bank support --came to 1.5 billion euros, equal to 0.8 percent of gross domestic product.Combined with the latest government measures to adjust spending, this meansGreece is on track to "secure the 2014 fiscal target" of its second bailoutprogramme, the report said.
"It is essential to ensure that the ambitious reform agenda is fully implemented toclose any remaining fiscal gaps," it added.Over the 12 months to May 2015, Greece must find 7.5 billion euros to balance thepublic finances.
This is down from previous estimates of 10-11 billion euros after a successfulgovernment bond sale earlier this month raised 3.0 billion euros.The report said some 2.0 billion euros needed by August could come from thecommercial banks, who backed by new investors may redeem the government-heldpreference shares issued to support the lenders at the height of the debt crisis.Extra funds could be raised by fresh government operations in the money marketsor found in resources not being used elsewhere.Such measures plus aid payments would also cover the 5.5 billion euros due by May2015, providing the "necessary reassurances that the programme remains
sufficiently financed," the report said.If the immediate financing problems are under control, total debt remains
extraordinarily high, the report showed, while giving no indication of how it couldbe brought down in line with the sharp forecast reduction.Greece's total debt will peak at 177 percent of GDP this year -- way above the EU 60-
percent limit -- and decline to around 125 percent by 2020, the report said.This level is then supposed to drop to below 110 percent by 2022, assuming growthprojections hold true.Asked how the debt mountain could be reduced so quickly, an EU official said "thathas not been part of the report. It is premature to answer this question."Having met the primary budget surplus target, Greece's eurozone partners arecommitted to examining the country's overall economic position later this year,amid speculation of perhaps a third rescue package or a debt write-off.Greece hopes to avoid a third rescue but has said it needs its creditors to ease thedebt burden so as to give the economy space to grow.The 'Troika' of the European Union, the European Central Bank and theInternational Monetary Fund rescued Greece twice, in 2010 and 2012, putting up 240billion euros in aid plus a hugely controversial private sector debt write-off foranother 100 billion euros.