Greek Government Brings In More Money Than It Spends

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Greece's government registered a $3.5 billion primary budget surplus for the first half of this year. It's a rare bit of good economic news for the country. The figure does not include interest payments, social security payments or local government debt. But the figure suggests that public financing is getting back on track.


The deeply indebted Greek government finally appears to be getting its budget in order. But as Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens, that has come at a great cost.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: It's the first time in a decade Greece is set to have a budget surplus, not including payments for debt, local government or social security budgets.

The government hopes the forecast, which came out on Monday, will satisfy the eurozone, which is lending Greece billions, says newspaper editor Nick Malkoutzis.

NICK MALKOUTZIS: Greece agreed with the eurozone that if it reaches a primary surplus at the end of this year, then there will be a discussion about ways to relieve it of more of its debt.

KAKISSIS: Greece has already pushed through three years of budget cuts and tax hikes.

MALKOUTZIS: For a lot of people, the fact that we have got here means that they have suffered in some way.

KAKISSIS: The unemployment rate is more than 27 percent, rivaling what it was in the U.S. during the Great Depression.

Pantelis Doumanis, a cardiologist, says his patients can't afford medicine. His children, also doctors, moved abroad for work.

DR. PANTELIS DOUMANIS: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: I don't expect us to return to the comforts of a few years ago, he says. I just want us to stop falling.

The recession is in its sixth year, though the rate of contraction is now easing. But until there's growth, Greeks won't be celebrating.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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