An elderly man passes by homeless men in Athens, Monday, April 23, 2018. Greece has beaten its bailout budget targets for a third successive year and eased its massive debt burden by a fraction as the country prepares to exit its international rescue program in four months. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece beats budget target as it looks to post-bailout era

April 23, 2018 - 9:14 am

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece as beaten its budget targets for a third year and trimmed its massive debt burden, according to data released Monday. But economic growth was just short of matching the level of 2014, before its last recession.

As the country prepares to exit its international bailout program in August, the independent statistics agency on Monday reported long-awaited data for 2017. The results will affect ongoing negotiations between Athens and creditors on the terms of Greece's exit.

The agency reported that the 2017 primary budget surplus — the balance before the cost of debt repayment is included— stood at 4 percent. National debt stood at 178.6 percent of gross domestic product, down from 180.8 percent the previous year.

Economic output was 177.7 billion euros ($218 billion), confirming a return to growth, but still almost a billion euros lower that annual output in 2014.

Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government has promised to continue privatizations and tough economic reforms after the country exits its bailout in exchange for more lenient repayment terms from European bailout lenders.

A draft of Greece's exit plan is due to be presented Friday at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Tsipras on Monday insisted Greece planned a full return to bond markets after the bailout ends in late August.

"We are completing the (bailout) program with success, rebuilding the economy, and preparing for the market access with Greek bonds," Tsipras told government lawmakers.

The Tsipras government is racing to complete a list of demands from creditors over the next month that includes continued administrative reforms and infrastructure privatizations.

A national power workers' union launched a 48-hour strike Monday against plans to privatize coal-fired power plants in a protest that has threatened parts of Greece with rolling blackouts.


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