October 4, 2014 / 8:53 PM / 3 years ago

Greece sees 2015 budget surplus close to bailout target: report

Greece's Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras listens to a question during a news conference at the ministry in Athens April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will aim to achieve a primary budget surplus of 2.9 percent of output next year, just shy of the 3 percent target set out under its bailout deal, its deputy finance minister said in an interview published Saturday.

The target is part of a 2015 draft budget that Athens will submit to parliament on Monday amid a bailout review by the “troika” of inspectors from its international lenders, the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

A finance ministry official had told Reuters on Friday that Athens would lower the 2015 primary surplus target only marginally, sticking “close to” the 3 percent figure.

In an interview with the weekly To Vima newspaper, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras also said that a “solidarity tax” introduced at the height of Greece’s debt crisis will be cut by 30 percent next year.

Athens said last month that unpopular taxes, including the solidarity tax and a heating oil consumption tax, will be lowered to show that four years of austerity is nearing an end.

Staikouras also said that Athens was expected to beat this year’s primary budget surplus target of 1.5 percent of GDP.

“Based on current data, the primary surplus (of 2014) is estimated at around 2 percent of GDP, considerably higher than the target,” he said.

The budget surplus has been viewed as an indicator of Greece’s progress in putting its finances in order during an economic crisis that wiped out almost a quarter of its GDP and sent unemployment to record highs of nearly 27 percent.

Greece topped its fiscal targets and achieved a budget surplus in 2013, a year ahead of schedule, paving the way for some form of additional debt relief from its euro zone lenders. Talks on further debt relief will start later this year.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Catherine Evans

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