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Greece gets enough to avoid another bailout trauma

17 Juin 2017

"Overall, I think this is a major step forward", said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official.

LUXEMBOURG (AP) - Greece avoided another potential brush with bankruptcy after striking a deal with European creditors to tide it over for the rest of the year and gained assurances that its repayment burden will be eased when it can stand on its own after almost a decade on financial life support. However, for austerity-weary Greeks the deal does little to lift the pall from years of belt-tightening.

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, the Greek government won the approval of its peers in the 19-country eurozone to get 8.5 billion euros ($9.5 billion) of bailout cash that will allow it to meet a big summer repayment hump. But the deal was not enough for the European Central Bank to include Greece in its government bond-buying program for now, as the ECB needed more clarity on what kind of debt relief Greece will get from its global creditors.

The ATHEX index was up 1.7 percent at 813.41 in early afternoon trading.

Greece's 2-year bond yield fell to its lowest level since October 2014 at 4.81 percent, while 10-year yields yield fell as much as 15 basis points to 5.71 percent, the lowest since May 23.

Simon Derrick, chief markets strategist at BNY Mellon, said that while the deal "might have proved the usual exercise in issue avoidance, the fact is that it's now unlikely that a fresh crisis will emerge in Greece in July".

Tzanakopoulos highlighted the creditors' acceptance of a long-standing Greek demand that debt repayments be linked to economic growth, meaning that repayments could be postponed in case the economy enters recession.

"It's a very constructive decision that will help Greece, also on the global market, to gradually get more credibility", Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said as cited by Bloomberg.

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After three bailouts, Greece's debt now stands at a staggering 180 per cent of annual output, by far the biggest national debt pile in Europe.

"If there's more growth then the repayment of loans will be faster and vice versa", Dijsselbloem said, adding that Greece's debt will be discussed in the future, as long as Greece maintains a primary surplus of 3.5 percent in the next five years. Instead, they have raised the possibility of an enhanced payout to give Athens a buffer in case it wants to try tapping the public markets.

Instead, the International Monetary Fund would suggest its board sign off on a 14-month-long bailout for Greece, but only dole out fresh loans once it receives further assurances from the euro area on how debt will be made sustainable.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, said agreement Thursday on support for Greece had been forged "on all elements" - money, debt relief and International Monetary Fund involvement.

However, Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing director, said enough progress had been made at Thursday's meeting for her to go to the executive board to get the stand-by facility, which will be less than $2 billion.

Debt relief "will be implemented at the end of the programme, conditional on its successful implementation" in 2018, said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister.

She said she hoped the agreement in principle will "give confidence to investors on the prospects for the Greek economy to grow and its people to prosper" and that "the discussion over specific debt relief measures can soon be brought to conclusion".

Despite years of austerity since Greece was first bailed out in 2010, the country's debt burden still stands at about 320 billion euros, or around 180 percent of Greece's annual gross domestic product.

Greece gets enough to avoid another bailout trauma