This paper discusses Greece’s Fifth Review Under the Extended Arrangement Under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), and Request for Waiver of Nonobservance of Performance Criterion and Rephasing of Access. Greece has gone from having the weakest to the strongest cyclically adjusted fiscal position within the euro area in just four years. But more fiscal adjustment is needed to restore debt sustainability. Structural reforms are progressing, although unevenly. The redoubling of efforts to liberalize products and service markets are much welcomed. On the basis of reforms undertaken in the context of this review, and the government’s policy commitments going forward, the IMF staff supports the completion of the fifth review.
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the fifth review of Greece’s performance under an economic program supported by an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The completion of this review enables the disbursement of SDR 3.01 billion (about €3.41 billion, or US$4.64 billion), which would bring total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 10.22 billion (about €11.58 billion, or US$15.75 billion).
In completing the review, the Executive Board approved a waiver of nonobservance of the performance criterion on domestic arrears, given the corrective actions taken. In light of the delays in program implementation, the Board also approved the authorities’ request for rephasing three disbursements evenly over the remaining reviews in 2014.
The EFF arrangement, which was approved on March 15, 2012 (see Press Release No. 12/85), is part of a joint package of financing with euro area member states amounting to about €173 billion over four years. It entails exceptional access to IMF resources equivalent to about 2,159 percent of Greece’s quota.
Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr. Naoyuki Shinohara, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, stated:
“The Greek authorities have made significant progress in consolidating the fiscal position and rebalancing the economy. The primary fiscal position is in surplus ahead of schedule, and Greece has gone from having the weakest to the strongest cyclically-adjusted primary fiscal balance in the euro area in just four years. However, several challenges remain to be overcome before stabilization is deemed complete and Greece is back on a sustainable, balanced growth path.
“Additional fiscal adjustment is necessary to ensure debt sustainability, through durable, high-quality measures, while strengthening the social safety net. It is essential that the authorities continue to improve tax collection, combat evasion, and strengthen expenditure control. Public administration reforms need to be accelerated. The authorities are taking remedial actions to clear domestic arrears and expedite privatization.
“Despite significant wage adjustment, export performance remains comparatively weak. The redoubling of efforts to liberalize product and service markets is therefore welcome. Further measures are necessary to remove regulatory barriers to competition in key sectors and to reform investment licensing. The authorities are committed to revitalizing labor market reforms and improving the business climate.
“Addressing the very high level of nonperforming loans remains an important priority. While there is no acute stability risk, it is critical for the economic recovery that banks be adequately capitalized upfront to recognize losses on the basis of realistic assumptions about loan recovery. Efforts are being made to recapitalize the banking system and set aside the buffer of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund to deal with contingencies that may arise during the program. The private debt resolution framework should also be strengthened expeditiously.
“Public debt is projected to remain high well into the next decade, despite a targeted high primary surplus. The assurances of Greece’s European partners are welcome that they will consider further measures and assistance, if necessary, to reduce debt to substantially below 110 percent of GDP by 2022, conditional on Greece’s full implementation of the program,” Mr. Shinohara stated.