Greece ready to go it alone, wants a ‘clean exit’, Tsakalotos says

epa05271960 Greek Finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos prior to the meeting of the Eurozone Finance Ministers at the Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 22 April 2016. Eurozone ministers met to discuss the Greek bailout and the Panama Papers fallout. EPA/BART MAAT

Greece is ready to venture forth on its own without support, while it wants the “cleanest possible” exit from the financial assistance programme when this ends in the summer, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said in interviews to the French newspaper “Les Echos” and the “Financial Times” this weekend.

Talking to the French paper, Tsakalotos said he was counting on a rapid restructuring of Greece’s debt so that the country can gradually return to normality. He also claimed to have no regrets about the decision to keep Greece in the euro and accept the terms of the programme.

“At some point, we must have confidence in the Greek government and Greek institutions, in the private and public sector, and believe in Greece’s ability to stand on its own two feet,” Tsakalotos noted.

In a message to investors, he noted that Greece could look forward to three years of economic growth and had a long-term strategy for making this growth sustainable. He revealed that government intends to present a reform plan in April that will be both growth-friendly and socially sensitive, so that investors will “know where we are headed.”

On debt relief, Tsakalotos it was now clear that it was necessary to extend the maturity of Greece’s debt for a number of years, as suggested at the Eurogroup of June 2017, while Greece was also counting on the implementation of a French proposal for linking debt repayment to growth. This would allow Greece to pass from the state of an “excessively” overindebted European country to a “normally” overindebted country, along the lines of Italy, Portugal or Spain, he added.

Tsakalotos said the International Monetary Fund continued to be a part of the programme and had agreed to a temporary loan agreement that has not been activated, pending a satisfactory settlement of Greece’s debt. He also said that Greece does not intend to use this money because the cost is greater than that of the ESM loans.

Talking to FT, the minister repeated that the government will present a strategic plan for socially sensitive and sustainable growth in April, adding that “we will take ownership of such a programme.”

The government was aware that it must continue reforms and also take measures benefiting society, so that people might see that the benefits of recovery are shared out, Tsakalotos added.