Greece: Greece eventually leaves rescue operations after years of stabbing austerity



ATHENS: After years of hefty savings measures, Greece arrived Monday from its third and final rescue plan, although officials warn that the country still has a "long way to go".

The European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund lent a total of 289 billion euros to Greece ($ 330 billion) in three consecutive programs in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

The economic reforms demanded by the creditors brought the country to its knees, with a quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP) evaporating in eight years and unemployment rising to more than 27 percent.

But Greece has now returned to growth, the once-big government deficit has been turned into a solid budget surplus – before interest payments are made – and unemployment has fallen to less than 20 percent, officials say.

"For the first time since early 2010, Greece can stand on its own feet, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Greek people, the good cooperation with the current Greek government and the support of European partners through loans and debt relief," said Mario Centeno, Chair of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in a statement Monday.

"It took much longer than expected, but I believe we are there," he added.

Athens welcomed the move as a turning point.

"The economy, society and the country as a whole are entering a new phase", said government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos Monday against the Greek media.

He added that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would broadcast a television broadcast on Tuesday.

Greek households, however, continue to feel the consequences of unpopular and harmful sobriety.

"Greece has many rivers to cross", read the front page of Monday of the English edition of the newspaper Kathimerini.

It warned that the country is coming out of the rescue "with a shrinking economy and very vulnerable to unrest on the market".

EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici also warned that "the reality on the ground remains difficult", but praised the rescue operation as "historical".

"Greece will be able to finance itself on (the financial) markets …, determine its own economic policy, and of course follow the reforms", he told the French radio station France Inter Monday.

The governor of the central bank, Yannis Stournaras, warned in the weekend that if Greece lags behind "on what we have agreed, now or in the future, the markets will abandon us and we will not be able to make maturing loans. refinance on sustainable debt conditions ".

He also expressed his concern: "If there is a strong international turbulence, either in the neighboring country of Italy or Turkey or in the world economy, we will have problems in tapping markets".

Athens estimates that the financing needs are now covered until the end of 2022, so that there is room for planning for the future.

Prime Minister Tsipras said in June after the agreement of the eurozone ministers to put an end to the rescue program that Greece could use for a "social state".

"Now we have the opportunity to continue with targeted assistance, to continue with tax relief in 2019 and to support social state and well-being," he said.

The country may have achieved budget surpluses in 2016 and 2017, with the exception of debt repayments of around 4%, but its hands remain tied to social security expenditure.

Greece has already adopted legislation for new reforms for 2019 and 2020 and will remain under international supervision for several years.

The improving economic indicators are not yet translating into tangible improvements in the daily lives of the Greeks.

"The rescue operation has ended but the buoys and the suffocation are still going on," the opposition-friendly newspaper Vima wrote on Sunday.

Professor of economics Nikos Vettas thinks it is "necessary" to generate "very strong growth" in the coming years.

Otherwise, "families in a very weak position will still suffer as a result of 10 years of cumulative recession".

However, Greece has gained some credibility with the international community.

"The commitments that Greece has made for the future are clear and I have no doubt that they will be respected," said the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Sunday against the Greek media, and stressed that the rescue plan was a "great success." " used to be.


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