Greece plans to offer handouts worth 1 billion euros to poor Greeks who have suffered during the seven-year debt crisis after beating its budget targets this year, the government said on Thursday. The country expects to return to nearly 2 percent growth this year and achieve a primary surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, outpeforming the 1.75 percent bailout target.
The data breakdown from this year’s tax returns so far confirm what Greece’s finance ministry officials were afraid all along: Declared income from freelancers dropped by 20%, compared to last year. According to a Kathimerini newspaper report, the tax burden on professionals and freelancers has led to tax evasion. The negative development will not only have an impact on this year’s budget but future budgets too, which has generated concern at the ministry ahead of the third bailout review, especially given the International Monetary Fund’s view that Greece will not be able to achieve the target for a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product from next year.
Political uncertainty and what appears to be a "perennial confrontation" between Greece and its international creditors are the main reasons the debt-laden country has been unable to exit its protracted financial crisis, according to a study carried out by Greek lender Eurobank, local newspaper "Kathimerini" (Daily) reported on Thursday. The study, titled “The Cost of Uncertainty,” highlights the important role credibility plays in the implementation of economic policy, and this, the study says, is not something Greece has enjoyed in recent years.
The International Monetary Fund’s board on Thursday approved a $1.8 billion loan to Greece — but will only release the money if the country gets debt relief from its European creditors. The IMF has praised Greece for taking steps to reduce its budget deficits, including expanding its tax base and cutting spending on pensions. But the lending agency is pressuring Greece’s eurozone lenders to provide enough relief to ensure the battered country can pay its bills.
Greece plans to issue bonds next week for the first time in three years, according to news reports. Rumors had circulated that the country would make a return to debt markets early this week. But the government pushed back the date of its five-year bond issue to next week to avoid higher borrowing costs, according to Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper. Since the weekend, the country’s bond prices have risen as investors hope the proceeds will strengthen Greece’s finances.
The EU recommended on Wednesday that three times bailed-out Greece has made enough progress in balancing its budget to be removed from special oversight of government spending. The move is a further boost for Athens days after it secured a fresh tranche of cash from its latest bailout to meet crucial debt payments and avoid a fresh crisis.
The International Monetary Fund, a key creditor in Greece’s bailout, will not participate in any further rescues of the debt—wracked country, Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a Greek newspaper today. “We have all acknowledged (eurozone and IMF) that the third Greek (bailout) payment will be the last with the participation of the IMF,” Schaeuble told Greek daily Ta Nea.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders restarted negotiations on Wednesday for the island’s reunification. Cyprus is divided for the last 43 years, following an invasion by Turkey in 1974, triggered by a coup backed by the Greek Colonel’s regime. Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, joined by senior U.N. and European Union officials and the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey. The conference brings all the main players to the table – including representatives from Cyprus’ guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and Britain – in what is being billed as an arena “for big and lasting decisions”.
Greece's international lenders prepared on Thursday to unblock as much as €8.5 billion in loans that Athens desperately needs next month to pay its bills, and to give some idea of what debt relief they may offer over the long-term. One of the reasons why Greece's bailout program has stalled over the past few months has been a disagreement between the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund on debt relief. The IMF, which has contributed financially to Greece's first two bailouts but not the third, has wanted more information about what debt relief Greece may get before it gets more involved in the current program, which is due to end in the summer of next year.
European officials indicated on Monday that they had few hopes for a comprehensive agreement at Thursday’s Eurogroup that will pave the way for Greece to join the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing plan, despite a French push for a deal. France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, was in Athens Monday to discuss a proposal whereby relief measures for Greece’s mountainous debt would be strengthened when growth is weak and relaxed when growth is strong. However, he admitted that securing a deal would be “difficult and complex.”
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