“There is Life after Debt”

ATHENS – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria has urged Greeks to hold on during a lingering economic crisis, saying there will be a recovery eventually.

The Paris-based economic body projected that Greece’s economy will continue to shrink next year, however, putting it at odds with predictions from the country’s finance ministry, and that more aid might be needed.

Gurria presented a report on Greece’s condition to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during a meeting at the Maximos Mansion, saying that despite the caveats there is room for optimism. “There is life after debt,” he said.

The OECD estimated that the Greek economy will contract 0.4 percent this year, compared to the government’s estimate of 0.6 percent, but added that there is unlikely to be a recovery next year as Samaras had said.

Greece is in the sixth year of a deep recession, worsened by austerity measures demanded by international lenders in return for 240 billion euros ($325 billion) in two bailouts that have failed to reduce a staggering 290 billion euros ($430 billion) debt.

The OECD report said that the economy was worse off than was being presented and more than a recession. It said the “depression has been much deeper than expected” and the need for further aid “cannot be excluded.”

Still, Gurria praised the government’s efforts for reforms, although the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is putting up the rescue monies said it’s unhappy with delays in some areas, such as privatization.

The OECD head congratulated the Greek premier and noted that Greece topped the global list with regard to structural reforms. He also met with PASOK Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos, who is serving as Deputy Premier in Samaras’ coalition government.

During the meeting Gurria referred to Greece’s “impressive adjustment program” and the “spectacular reversal in the balance of payments” as well as the country’s projected primary surplus which has come on the back of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions put on workers, pensioners and the poor while the rich and tax cheats have largely escaped sacrifice.

Speaking to the press after the meeting Venizelos said that the OECD report pointed to the fact that the Greek debt was sustainable, disputed by many analysts who have pointed out that the economy is still on life support from the Troika and that Greece still can’t borrow from the markets.

Gurria was due to meet Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis before delivering a keynote speech at a Constantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy function.