Greece Posts 2013 Primary Budget Surplus

Source: The Wall Street Journal
By ALKMAN GRANITSAS
Jan. 14, 2014

Greece Posts 2013 Primary Budget Surplus

Fulfills a Key Condition of Creditors Ahead of Schedule

Greece posted its first primary budget surplus in a decade last year, fresh data showed, fulfilling a key condition of international creditors a year ahead of schedule.

Data from Greece’s finance ministry showed the central government’s budget—before taking into account debt payments—with a €691 million ($944.2 million) surplus last year, compared with a €3.46 billion deficit in 2012.

Taking into account moneys owed by the European Union to Greece for public works, and which are expected to be paid in the first months of this year, Greece’s primary surplus in 2013 was in line with the €812 million penciled into the country’s latest budget, a finance ministry official said.

“The execution of the state budget confirms and supports our estimates for the year that has passed,” said Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras. “Our country, after many years and enormous sacrifices by Greek society, will achieve a primary surplus earlier than expectations.”

Since early 2010, Greece has received two massive bailouts from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for fixing its deficit-ridden public finances. Under the existing bailout program, Greece wasn’t expected to achieve a primary surplus until the end of 2014.

The better-than-expected outcome has strengthened Athens’ hand in negotiations with its international budget inspectors—the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF—who are expected to return to Greece in coming weeks to review the country’s reform progress.

For the 12 months of the year, the government said state budget revenues had increased to €52.9 billion from €51.9 billion a year ago, while outlays had fallen to €58.3 billion from €67.6 billion.

The state budget only takes into account the operations of Greece’s central government, and doesn’t include general government accounts, which comprise local government, a portion of military spending as well as some social welfare spending.

The final figures for Greece’s 2013 budget position are expected to be released by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics department, in April.

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