The European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat on April 23 said that Greece had a 3.4 billion euro primary surplus for 2013, a benchmark that would allow Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to seek debt relief from international lenders.
The news came a day ahead of a working meeting of Eurozone finance ministers where Greece will also present a plan to return to growth after seven years of a deep recession and a harsh economic crisis during which austerity measures have created record unemployment and deep poverty.
Samaras has promised to return 70 percent of the amount to low-income pensioners, police and the military and other emergency personnel in a so-called social dividend that is set to be distributed next month, just before critical elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament in which polls show his New Democracy Conservatives trailing the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras stated before Easter that the primary surplus according to the European System of Accounts would be about 3.4 billion euros, ($4.7 billion) while under a calculation table from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) it is 1.4 billion euros.
The Eurozone meeting will review progress on Greek reforms that were demanded in return for 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) in two bailouts. The government said it has completed about 90 percent of what was required.
Reaching the primary surplus also triggers release of a pending installment of 6.3 billion euros ($8.72 billion) as well as trying to restructure the country’s debt although the IMF and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has put up much of the loans, have ruled out a so-called “haircut,” in which a big chunk of what Greece owes would be forgiven.
Otherwise, taxpayers in the other 17 Eurozone countries would be forced to pay the bill for decades of wild overspending by alternating administrations of New Democracy and its current coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists, who had been its arch-rival before they were forced to team up after the 2012 elections to have a Parliamentary majority.
Greece’s representative in the Euro Working Group and head of the Financial Experts’ Council, Panos Tsakloglou, will put the issue of the country’s debt on the table at the meeting and present the growth plan.