GREECE hopes to get more time to repay bailout loans, its finance minister said yesterday, a day before EU and IMF inspectors start a visit to assess if new austerity plans are tough enough to tidy up its public finances.
Struggling with a deep recession, weak revenues and growing market expectations that a debt restructuring is inevitable, the fiscally crippled country faces a gruelling inspection a year after its eurozone partners and the IMF saved it from bankruptcy with a €110 billion bailout loan.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, who unveiled yesterday new plans to fight rampant tax evasion (a priority for its international lenders), became the first Greek official to float the idea of a further easing of conditions on the bailout.
Also setting a precedent in the debate on how to resolve Greece’s fiscal dilemma was European central banker Nout Wellink.
In comments to students in the Netherlands, he became the first member of the ECB’s governing council to point to a possible rescheduling of repayments on the country’s debt.
Mr Papaconstantinou said Greece would welcome having more time to pay back its bailout funds, at a lower interest rate, after the EU already sweetened the deal in March.
“The European Council decided (in March) to extend the repayment of the €110bn,” he told a news conference. “I just expressed the hope we will be able at a later stage to have an even better arrangement of this specific debt, nothing more.”
Analysts said a rescheduling of repayments, even covering both the EU/IMF bailout monies and Greece’s sovereign debt, would not be enough to avoid a broader restructuring.