ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece will seek a break in bailout debt repayments as part of negotiations with creditors expected in the spring, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Thursday.
A debt relief deal, he said, would allow Greece to emerge from years of recession and near-zero growth.
Tsipras’ left-wing government has quietly dropped demands made last year for a partial cancellation of bailout debt.
Bailout inspectors resumed talks in Athens on Wednesday to press Greece for further cost-cutting reforms that include an overhaul of the country’s pension system.
The European Union’s financial affairs commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said a debt relief deal could be ready by the summer if the current bailout review is successful.
“We welcome the discussion on the vital issue of debt,” Tsipras said after a meeting in Athens with Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“There is a need to lighten the burden of Greece’s debt with a significant extension of repayments and grace periods that could be agreed upon,” he said. “That would decisively lower the cost of servicing the debt. This is the key factor.”
Greece missed a repayment to the International Monetary Fund last year before reaching an agreement with creditors for a third international bailout worth more than 80 billion euros ($88 billion).
The national debt is set to peak at 185 percent of gross domestic product this year before easing to 181.8 percent in 2017, according to European Union predictions.
In a report released on the day of Gurria’s visit, the OECD said it expects growth to stay at zero this year and increase gradually, to 1.9 percent in 2017. By contrast, the EU forecasts growth of 2.7 percent by then.
Unemployment is likely to remain high, the report said, dipping to 23.8 percent in 2017, from 24.7 percent this year.
Online: OECD Report on Greece: http://goo.gl/PnT8by
Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos