Greece on target for balanced budget

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece remains on track to balance its budget this year, helped by a recovery in tax revenues after years of huge efforts by Greeks, a senior finance official said Wednesday.

Deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras said the country was expected to post a budget surplus of about 345 million euros ($463 million) before interest payments this year — a key target set by bailout lenders.

The January-October balance stood at 1.1 billion euros ($1.48 billion), Staikouras said, after traditionally weak tax revenues came in 250 million euros ($335.8 million) above target, at 35.59 billion euros ($47.8 billion) for the 10-month period.

"It seems that the country will meet its national target. Of course, this is due to the enormous sacrifices made by Greeks, unprecedented in post-war Europe," Staikouras said. Unemployment in Greece is nearing 28 percent, amid rapidly increasing poverty due to years of austerity measures imposed in exchange for the bailout program worth 240 billion euros ($322 billion).

Greece is currently in talks with bailout inspectors to try and resolve a disagreement over 2014 budget cuts and how to ease government protection for distressed mortgages. The left-wing opposition Syriza described the negotiations as a sham.

"These negotiations with the Europeans are a charade. The (government) is in fact reciting its loyalty to its lenders," a party statement said. "Its goal was and remains the resolute implementation of bailout commitments with no consideration for the social cost."

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