Mon, Nov 25, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Germany calms contagion fears

GREECE SAYS NO MORE:Greece said it does not need another bailout. The nation expects its six-year recession to end next year and its budget forecast has gone up

Reuters, BERLIN

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday that there were no longer any risks of contagion in the eurozone, and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed his country did not need a further bailout.

Schaeuble said Greece’s achievements in the last one-and-a-half years, which included better-than-expected growth and progress in reducing its deficit, merited respect. He also cited the decline in the difference between yields on German and Greek bonds.

He said government crises and coalition negotiations no longer posed contagion risks for the single currency bloc as a whole, without specifying which country or countries he was referring to.

“The euro is stable, financial markets are no longer concerned about the future of the eurozone and there are no risks of contagion anymore,” he said at a conference organized by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Berlin.

Speaking later at the event, Greece’s Samaras reiterated that his country did not need a further bailout and instead simply needed to fulfill the terms of its existing program.

Athens has said it will emerge from a six-year recession next year and has more than doubled its forecast for the budget surplus before interest payments for this year.

International lenders are in the middle of their latest review of Greece’s performance on its reform targets. Posting a budget surplus before interest payments would open the way for Greece to ask for debt relief.

“I think that this is enough. We don’t need something else — we don’t need another program — we just have to stick by this program,” Samaras said.

After more than two months of reviewing Greece’s economy, the lenders have still not agreed to release Greece’s next tranche of bailout funds as they disagree with Athens on the size of a fiscal gap for next year to 2015 and how this will be filled.

Officials from the “troika” of lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF — are due to return to the country early next month.

“I believe that what we need at this point is to finish the job by the end of the year of getting, that is, the approval of the troika for the next tranche,” Samaras said.

He added that Greece did not need more time to reduce its debt.

“At this point I’m going very fast ... I do not need time to wait,” he said.

Athens faces bond payments of 1.85 billion euros (US$2.5 billion) in early January.

Greece said earlier this week it will post a primary budget surplus before interest payments, of 0.4 percent of GDP this year.

However, under the terms of its international bailout it must widen the surplus to 4.5 percent of GDP in 2016. Athens has said it will meet this target without taking further austerity measures, helped by an economic recovery and better tax collection.

However, the troika insists the country must make further cuts because it doubts the degree to which an economic rebound and a crack down on tax evasion can improve its finances.

IMF’s mission chief for Greece suggested on Saturday that there is room for compromise, since Athens and its lenders agreed that across-the-board measures which would hurt the country’s economy should be avoided.

“Further measures will be needed for 2014-2016 but they will be on a much smaller scale than in the past,” the IMF mission chief for Greece Poul Thomsen was quoted as saying in an interview with newspaper Kathimerini.

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