ATHENS – Pointing to a primary surplus and floating a sovereign bond for the first time since an economic crisis began four years ago, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has rejected talk that Greece will need a third bailout.
In an article in Sunday’s Kathimerini, Samaras declared that, “The country’s return to the markets rebuffs [speculation] about a third memorandum,” a prospect that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was careful to leave open on a whirlwind visit to Athens on April 11.
He was referring to deals with The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which put up two rescue packages of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion), most of which runs out this year
The IMF said that Greece may need additional help until 2016, when the next national elections are scheduled.
Eurozone finance chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem also said that talk of Greece’s recovery is premature .
“I’m quite convinced we’ll have to look at it very carefully after the summer to see what the future is and whether that needs another program,” Dijsselbloem said in an interview in Washington.
Bailout overseers say they don’t believe Greece is ready to go it alone “They don’t have full access to markets as yet,” Dijsselbloem said, according to the Bloomberg financial news service.
Samaras said the sale of a 3 billion euro five-year bond that came as Greece tested the waters for a full market return once two international rescue packages run out was proof the economy would begin to recover on its own.
“Two years ago when I was speaking about prospects and hope, the signs were not good. Few believed that we could make it,” Samaras wrote.
“Now, everyone can see it: Greece is succeeding, step by step.” He said his priorities now were growth-boosting measures and “relief for those who have been hardest hit” by austerity measures he imposed on Troika orders.
He didn’t provide any details nor any programs to help workers, pensioners and the poor who’ve been buried under pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and civil servant firings.
The austerity measures have created deep poverty and record unemployment, worst for those under 25 but Samaras, who last year said he would put 75,000 young to work in January, hasn’t mentioned a word since.
Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader whose party is facing a serious challenge in next month’s critical elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities, attacked his critics.
He took shots at the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, most of whose leader have been jailed pending trial on charges of running a criminal organization.
He said democracy had been challenged by “an irresponsible opposition which tried to rally the people against the country staying in the Eurozone” and by a “criminal organization” which used the parliamentary immunity of its MPs to launch “an unprecedented wave of violence.”
He didn’t answer why, as critics had said, he waited so long to go after Golden Dawn, whose members had been accused of orchestrating violence against immigrants, which it denied.
Others have said that the bond was floated now as a political ploy to benefit Samaras and New Democracy before the elections.
And while Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had said only two day before the bond issue that it was still being weighed, Kathimerini said it had been told by sources it didn’t identify tht it was the result of months of secret talks at Samaras’ home and decided on March 24.