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Europe

International team gives Greece thumbs up over austerity reforms

International inspectors say Greece has made a strong start in implementing austerity measures to curb its debt crisis. One official said he was confident Athens would now receive the next instalment of a rescue package.

The Greek flag underneath a life buoy

Greek desperately needs the international bailout

A team of international inspectors has given Greece the thumbs up over its government's efforts to counteract the country's debt crisis. The assessors also said, however, that important reforms still needed to be enacted.

The mostly positive assessment was made by officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission who had been in Greece for two weeks.

The financial fact-finding mission reported that Greece would likely meet this year's deficit-cutting target.

"This was a very ambitious program with a lot of front-loading, and the good news is that it is being implemented as agreed," the IMF's mission chief, Poul Thomsen, told news agency Reuters.

A joint statement by the EU Commission, IMF and ECB said the "performance criteria have all been met, led by a vigorous implementation of the fiscal program and important reforms are ahead of schedule.

"Our overall assessment is that the program has made a strong start."

Greece must now push through reforms in energy, banking and the public sector, the inspection team said.

Loan a near-certainty

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

The government of Prime Minister George Papandreou has been under pressure to cut debt

Commenting on the assessment by the international inspectors, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet told a news conference in Frankfurt, "It doesn't mean that a very hard job should not continue to be done."

The visit came ahead of the release of the second portion of a 110 billion euro ($145 billion) loan to Greece from the European Union and the IMF. Payment was somewhat dependent on the Athens government's progress in curbing its massive budget deficit.

"We would expect, on the basis on that (positive assessment), that the disbursement would take place on schedule in September," said Thomsen.

Deutsche Welle Athens correspondent Jannis Papadimitriou said Greece thinks it deserves to receive the loan.

"Today, Finance Minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou was more than confident. He said that in the last 50 years, no Greek government has ever promoted so many reforms in such a short period of time. That is, in less than four months," Papadimitiriou said.

Author: Darren Mara (Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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