Greece favors IMF withdrawal from rescue loan program

AP News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2017 10:58 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's left-led government said Tuesday it would welcome a decision by the International Monetary Fund to pull out of the country's bailout program, which is bogged down in disagreements on further spending cuts.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos accused the Washington-based fund of making "irrational demands" in the negotiations, which he said Greece wants wrapped up as soon as possible.

Also Tuesday, the finance ministry released preliminary budget data according to which the primary surplus for 2016 — which excludes debt servicing costs — was more than double the initial target.

Greece hopes a deal with European creditors and the IMF will boost its battered economy, give it access to the European Central Bank's bond-buying stimulus program and, later, to international debt markets.

The IMF participated in Greece's two previous bailouts, but is still deliberating whether to finance the current, third program signed in 2015. It says fiscal targets agreed upon between Greece and the Europeans are too optimistic.

"What the IMF decides is its own concern," Tzanakopoulos said. "But what concerns us is that it should take its decision as soon as possible and not create pointless delays" in the bailout talks.

"If the IMF wishes to not participate with financing in the Greek program, that would be a good development not just for Greece but for all of Europe," he added. "We have always said that Europe is able to handle its problems on its own."

Tzanakopoulos also said the better-than-expected 2016 budget execution figures included boosted tax revenues, which he said showed that efforts to fight tax evasion are paying off.

According to the finance ministry, the 2016 primary surplus was 4.4 billion euros, compared to a budget forecast for 2 billion euros. The figures are calculated on a modified cash basis, and differ slightly from the final budget data.

Greece has committed to budget surpluses in coming years, under the terms of its bailout program. The country has depended on rescue loans since 2010.