Greece upgrades 2018 growth forecast


The Greek government has upgraded slightly its forecast for economic growth next year, according to its final 2018 budget, tabled late Tuesday.

The government is expecting the economy to grow by 2.5 percent in 2018, fractionally higher than the 2.4 percent contained in the draft budget last month.

And the country's public finances will be in the black, with Athens pencilling in a budget surplus equivalent to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), excluding debt payments, the finance ministry said.

The target mandated by Greece's creditors is 3.5 percent, up from 1.75 percent this year.

The Greek parliament is scheduled to vote on the budget on December 22.

Greece "is entering a new period of economic stability," the ministry said.

And Athens' main target now would be to "regain access to global capital markets."

In 2017, the economy was expected to grow by 1.6 percent and register a primary surplus of 2.4 percent, the ministry said.

Athens intends to sell state assets worth just over 1.1 billion euros in 2018.

The country's debt is expected to grow to 332 billion euros ($392 billion) from 318.3 billion euros this year, or 179.8 percent of GDP.

Brussels is also confident about the outlook for the Greek economy.

Speaking to the European parliament on Tuesday, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said the Greek economy was showing marked improvement and was capable of "durable growth".

An ongoing review of Greek reforms could feasibly conclude by early 2018, Dombrovskis said.

Greece has received three multi-billion euro bailouts since 2010.

The third rescue programme, currently financially supported by EU states but not the International Monetary Fund, runs to August 2018 and Athens then hopes to fully return to market financing.

By the end of September, Greece had received over 221 billion euros from European institutions and a further 11.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund, the ministry said.

In July, Greece made a symbolic return to debt markets after a three-year hiatus, selling three billion euros worth of five-year bonds at 4.625 percent, lower than its previous outing in 2014.

Athens tested the market again earlier this month, offering to exchange some 30 billion euros in maturities originally issued in 2012.

More fixed-rate bond sales will follow, the ministry said.