April 21, 2017 / 3:44 PM / 4 months ago

IMF praises Greek primary surplus, needs debt deal to join bailout

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund praised on Friday Greece's fiscal over-performance last year but said it still needed clarification from euro zone governments on what debt relief Athens can expect before joining the latest Greek bailout.

Greek statistics office data showed that the country far exceeded its international lenders' budget demands last year, posting its first overall budget surplus in 21 years even when debt repayments are included.

"The number that came out this morning is well above what we have been projecting, what anybody has been projecting," the head of the IMF's European department Poul Thomsen said.

He said the Fund would send its experts to Athens next week to help finalise a reform package agreed between euro zone finance ministers and Greece two weeks ago in Malta.

But before the IMF would join the latest bailout for Greece, now shouldered by the euro zone alone, the euro zone governments would have to give the Fund a better idea of how long they expected Greece to maintain a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP and therefore what kind of debt relief Athens could expect. (Reporting By Jan Strupczewski)

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