World Economy

Greece to Tap Bond Markets

Greece to Tap Bond MarketsGreece to Tap Bond Markets

Greece will return to credit markets next year if the country’s international creditors offer debt relief measures at a crucial May 24 meeting of eurozone finance ministers, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a newspaper on Saturday.

The cash-strapped country, which has been cut off from global debt markets since 2014 and agreed a third multi-billion euro bailout last July, started talks with lenders earlier this week on how to make its debts more manageable, Reuters reported.

Tsipras’s government aims to conclude a review of its progress on bailout-linked reforms at the May 24 meeting, a step that would unlock the next tranche of funds in time to meet repayments to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as well as state suppliers.

The leftist leader, reelected in September on promises to mitigate the impact of austerity on crisis-weary Greeks, also hopes for progress on easing its debt burden, which is set to reach 182.8% of gross domestic product this year, according to European Commission forecasts.

“If we achieve what we seek for the debt on May 24, we will return to the markets in 2017,” he told Realnews newspaper.

“We might exit the bailout once and for all a lot before the program expires in August 2018,” Tsipras added.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said last year a long-term commitment to debt relief from eurozone countries was key to restoring investor confidence, and that Athens could return to bond markets by the end of 2016.

Greece’s 10-year bond yields fell below 8% for the first time in more than six months on Tuesday after eurozone finance ministers offered debt relief to the country from 2018. They soared to almost 19% at the height of the country’s debt crisis in mid-2015.

Treasury bills are currently Greece’s main source of short-term funding.

European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told the Kathimerini newspaper that Greece and its lenders were very close to concluding the review on May 24 but no deadline has been set.

Greece last week voted pension and tax reforms, part of a package agreed under its bailout. Dombrovskis said Athens now needed to legislate the remaining measures and contingency reforms which the country will not have to implement unless it falls short of its fiscal targets.

Tsipras’s government is expected to submit a bill on the pending reforms and secure a parliamentary approval before the Eurogroup meets to wrap up the review.

The package will probably include a set of indirect tax hikes, setting up a new privatization fund, regulations on Greek banks “bad loans” and the contingency reforms.