Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday that the economy was turning a page and poised to show ‘exceptionally high’ rates of growth, despite data showing output slumped more than expected in the fourth quarter of last year.
Putting a brave face on delays in a bailout review with lenders, Tsipras said a national growth strategy was needed for the country.
“For the present year the forecasts show that the Greek economy will show exceptionally high rates of growth after many years of recession, the highest at a eurozone level,” Tsipras told a cabinet meeting.
Authorities expect growth of 2.7 per cent this year.
Minutes earlier, the statistics service released data showing the €175bn economy shrank more than anticipated in the last trimester of 2016, contracting 1.2 per cent on a quarterly basis and 1.1 on a yearly basis.
“Whether they like it or not, the economy was resilient, the economy recovered,” Tsipras said.
In an indirect reference to lenders currently in Athens negotiating reforms, Tsipras said: “It is clear that no matter how they may want to stall negotiations at a technical level, there is no turning back. Greece has already turned a page.”
The review has dragged on for months mainly due to a rift between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund over the Greece’s fiscal progress and its resistance to adopting extra austerity and unpopular labour reforms.
The disagreements have revived fears of a new crisis in the country, which was almost forced out of the eurozone in 2015.
Greece wants to conclude the review well before July, when it faces big debt repayments. It hopes its bonds will be included in the European Central Bank’s asset purchase programme allowing it to return to bond markets in 2017, a year before its current bailout ends.
It aims for a deal before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on March 20.
But the IMF expects that Athens will not achieve its targets.