MANILA: A crucial meeting of eurozone finance ministers next week will be key to getting Greece “back on its feet”, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said on Friday, as she cut short her visit to Asia to attend the talks.
The International Monetary Fund managing director told a news conference in Manila that the Eurogroup’s focus was getting the debt-wracked country on a “sustainable” path as soon as possible.
“You know, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, as the saying goes,” Lagarde told reporters when asked if she expected a deal to be forged at the meeting next week in Brussels.
“It’s a question of working hard, putting our mind to it, making sure that we focus on the same objective, which is that... Greece can operate on a sustainable basis, can recover, can get back on its feet, can re-access markets as early as possible,” she said.
“That is what is driving the IMF’s determination.” Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker has said he hopes the meeting on Tuesday will clear the way for it to receive the lates 31 billion euro tranche of bailout cash Greece desperately needs to avoid default.
Juncker has clashed publicly with Lagarde over extending Greece’s agreed debt-to-gross domestic product ratio target.
Juncker wants the target of 120 per cent of Greek debt-to-GDP ratio by 2020 pushed back to 2022. It is now at 170 per cent.
Despite two bailouts involving the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF as well as a private-sector debt cut, Greece is set to enter its sixth year of recession in 2013, pushing its debt mountain to 190 per cent of output in 2014.
The eurozone slipped back into recession for the second time in just three years in the third quarter, according to data on Thursday, raising fears it would make the resolution of the debt crisis even more difficult.
“The recession, it is not exactly a surprise. We had actually forecasted there would be a recession in the eurozone in 2012 and growth will pick up in 2013,” Lagarde said on Friday.
“I certainly hope that will be the case in 2013 if policy makers will actually act and do what is necessary and appropriate to recover from the crisis.” Asked if members needed to contribute more to boost the IMF’s resources to deal with financial crises, Lagarde said the fund’s resources were adequate.
“The IMF has the capacity to lend ... slightly in excess of $1 trillion, which we believe is sufficient, appropriate under current circumstances.” She added: “You can never say never. But, frankly, I hope that this is appropriate and sufficient.”