28 February, 2007
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction over the positive assessment, by the by ECOFIN group, of Greece's Stability and Growth programme for the period 2006-2009.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the Greek minister said the government was continuing its efforts towards fiscal adjustment and structural reforms, while commenting on the country's public finances, said the adjustment programme continued with structural measures of permanent nature aiming to achieve a medium-term target of balanced or surplus budgets. Alogoskoufis said this target would be achieved by 2012 at the latest, while the public debt would continue falling thanks to high growth rates, rising primary surpluses, reduced adjustments between deficit and debt and higher proceeds from privatisations.
He said implementation of a reform program could lead to an acceleration of productivity growth rates, higher employment and lower unemployment in the country. Alogoskoufis also noted that this policy was already bearing fruit, since the general government deficit fell by around five percentage points of GDP during the last two years, mainly through a policy of containing spending and improving tax efficiency. Alogoskoufis said the country's fiscal deficit was expected at 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006, in full accordance with an ECOFIN decision taken on Feb. 17, 2005.
The government has ensured economic growth with the implementation of a reform strategy and a real growth rate of 3.7 pct in 2005 and 4.3 pct in 2006. "This performance remains one of the highest in the Eurozone," Alogoskoufis said.
He also referred to changes in the quality dimensions of economic growth, with private investments and lower corporate taxes raising their share in economic growth, while he cited a new investment law and legislation on joint ventures between public and private sector companies as additional supporters.
Alogoskoufis said unemployment fell to 11.3 pct of the workforce in early 2004 to 8.3 pct in the third quarter of 2006 and noted that 250,000 new job positions were created, mainly in the private sector.
Commenting on the pension system, the Greek FinMin said a social and political dialogue over the issue was continuing with the aim of creating the necessary conditions to promote a pension reform with social and political consensus.
Alogoskoufis said the government based its economic policy on two pylons: the first to achieve a fiscal adjustment aimed to end excessive deficit procedures by 2006 and the second to promote structural reforms to boost economic growth through private investments, exports and higher employment.
The Greek minister said the ministry has sent all date related with an upwards revision of the country's Gross Domestic Product to Eurostat last month and that the EU executive's statistics agency was currently evaluating these figures.
European Union Commissioner Joaquin Almunia met on Tuesday with Greek Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and discussed the possible exit of the Greek economy from the excessive deficit process.
"I met with Mr. George Alogoskoufis this morning. The main topic of discussion was the possible exit of the Greek economy from the excessive deficit process. I informed the Greek minister that our spring predictions will be publicized on May 7 and then we shall be in a position to know all the data required to enable us to assess exit from supervision. With the existing information, I believe that this exit is clearly possible, but we must wait until May 7 when we shall know the final data for 2006 and predictions for 2007," the Commissioner said.
"During the discussion, George Alogoskoufis mentioned to me that he intends to proceed in the future with the reforming of the social security system in Greece. Of course, I am aware, just like you are aware in any case, that elections will take place in Greece in the meantime and, consequently, it will be better that this issue be settled after the elections," Almunia added.
Source: Athens News Agency