BERLIN – Repeating his mantra that Greece will turn around next year and recover from a crushing economic crisis and a deep six-year recession, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told an audience of German business leaders that, “We are now cleaning up this mess.”
He was referring to the debacle in Greece caused by generations of wild overspending by his New Democracy Conservatives and their rivals, the PASOK Socialists, who are now his partners in a thin-majority coalition.
That led a previous government in 2010 to seek an international bailout of $152 billion and then a second for $173 billion that came with attached austerity measures that created record unemployment and poverty.
Samaras, who opposed the conditions when he was out of power but embraced them when he took office, said they have kept Greece from collapsing, although he acknowledged a high price had been paid by ordinary Greeks.
“We went further than many considered possible years ago. Many though Greece was a lost case…more and more are talking about a spectacular comeback,” he said.
Perhaps, but the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said there is a looming hole in the 2014 budget of as much as 2.9 billion euros.
But Samaras told German Chancellor Angela Merkel any gap would be made up by structural reforms and economic progress, negating the need for more austerity measures he has vowed to resist. He said no more loans will be needed either and that Greece will before long stand by itself.
Although nobody expected it to rebound so soon, Greece still has a “long way to go,” and the country will continue with reforms, he said, declaring that the recession would end this year, although economic numbers refute that.
“There is much more to be done,” he said. “But now we can see at least some light at the end of the tunnel,” he added, a message he has repeated often recently although many analysts dispute it.
He said during a panel discussion in answer to a question that Greece will not leave the Eurozone and that he expects a resolution to long-standing disagreements with the Troika over delayed reforms that is holding up release of a pending one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment.
The Troika said as its envoys left Athens that “good progress” has been made in Greece, but that a few issues have to be solved, contradicting its own previous statement that the two sides were “miles apart, billions apart.
Greece said that it will achieve a primary surplus – before debt repayments – of 812 million euros ($1.09 billion) this year, double the government’s own forecast of just a month ago.