Greek deficit lower than expected

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Greece national flag1 REUTERS Picture: John Kolesidis / Reuters

Brussels - The deficit of crisis-battered Greece rose less than expected last year, new data showed Wednesday, as the country hoped for further good news later in the day on its primary surplus.

Greece was one of the countries worst hit by the eurozone's debt crisis, requiring 240 billion euros (332 billion dollars) in bailout loans since 2010.

But Athens has high hopes that it is now turning the corner.

The country ended a four-year exile from international markets this month, and it believes a primary surplus was attained last year for the first time in nearly a decade.

That figure, which does not include the cost of paying interest on debt, is expected to be released later Wednesday.

Greek media have reported that it could be as high as 1.5 billion euros - almost double earlier forecasts.

Greece argues that the achievement of a primary surplus should pave the way for the eurozone to grant Athens debt relief, such as lower interest rates and longer loan maturities for existing loans.

The country's overall deficit reached 12.7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2013, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said Wednesday in its first estimate for that year.

The bloc's executive, the European Commission, had predicted a higher figure of 13.1 per cent.

The lion's share of that deficit is generated by aid to troubled banks, according to Eurostat.

Putting that aside, the Greek shortfall would stand at 2.1 per cent. - Sapa-dpa

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