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Saturday 1 October 2016

Eurozone debt levels rise to a record led by Greece

Ian Wishart

Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30

Valdis Dombrovskis, vice-president European Commission.
Valdis Dombrovskis, vice-president European Commission.

Government debt in the Eurozone has surged to the highest levels since the introduction of the single currency, underscoring the challenges still confronting the bloc as it wrestles with Greece over new aid payments.

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Greece's debt pile swelled to a new high of 177.1pc of gross domestic product at the end of 2014, up from 175pc a year earlier, the European Union's statistics office in Luxembourg said yesterday.

For the Eurozone as a whole, government debt rose to a record 91.9pc of GDP last year from 90.9pc in 2013.

Ireland's debt levels are falling, but they still remain high, even by European standards.

The figures give added impetus to European leaders' demands that Greece revamp its economy before receiving further bailout support.

While progress is due to be reviewed on Friday when ministers from the currency bloc meet in Riga, Latvia, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview in Washington that creditors might need to wait until mid-May to see what Greece can deliver.

"Nobody is optimistic, frankly speaking on Greece," former European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet said in an interview in Singapore yesterday.

"All depends on the maturing of the position of the Greek government understanding that in any case if it wants to deliver growth and jobs, which is the main goal of the government, it has to produce a recovery programme that inspires confidence to the international community."

The figures show that Greece's debt level is up about 25 percentage points from 156.9pc in 2012, the year the country received its second bailout, of €130bn from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yesterday's data also confirmed that other fragile Eurozone economies are still struggling to control debt levels even as recovery across the currency region gathers pace.

Italy's debt mountain increased and remained as the second-highest in the Eurozone after Greece, going up to 132.1pc of GDP in 2014 from 128.5pc the previous year.

Portugal, in third place, saw its debt rise to 130.2pc of GDP from 129.7pc, while in Ireland, next in line, debt fell to 109.7pc from 123.2pc.

The data also show that some Eurozone countries are struggling to reduce their budget deficits to within the EU's 3pc of GDP limit. France, the region's second-biggest economy, posted a deficit of 4pc in 2014, down from 4.1pc. Cyprus had the widest deficit, at 8.8pc of GDP while Spain recorded a deficit of 5.8pc, narrowing from 6.8pc the year before. Greece posted a deficit of 3.5pc.

Data released from the CSO here yesterday showed that the Budget deficit was 4.1pc of the value of the economy, missing the Budget forecast.

However, the deficit figure still remains significantly within the 5.1pc target the Government needed to meet under European rules.

Irish Independent

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