Greece May Need Further Debt Relief Despite Austerity Policy

Greece's painful budget cuts caused a deep recession

Now the government of Greece has consistently reduced its levels of spending on infrastructure and other essential services, as the country struggles to meet its debt repayment obligations.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman at meetings of eurozone finance ministers, dismissed the IMF's warnings, according to a report in The Telegraph.

But it seems the fight has now moved into the IMF's own boardroom: in the statement, it said while most directors agreed Greece doesn't need further consolidation, some had called for a rebalancing of fiscal policy, primarily by broadening the number of people required to pay personal income tax and rationalising pension spending.

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It warned Greece's debt "is highly unsustainable" and "will become explosive in the long run".

The IMF predicts Greece's economy will reach long-run growth of just under 1% a year - unimpressive, but an improvement on years when the economy was shrinking.

The IMF's intervention is an embarrassment for the eurozone, which wants to play down the prospect of further problems with Greece ahead of German and French elections.

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The IMF claims that Greece's national debt, now at 180 per cent of its GDP, is "unsustainable" and its financiers are increasingly reluctant to offer bailout cash. But he ruled out any relief on principal debt. The impasse needs to be bridged by the time euro-area finance ministers meet on February 20, their last gathering before European elections make an agreement politically hard.

Meanwhile, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzannakopoulos said the country was opposed to International Monetary Fund demands for a contingency austerity program after the current bailout program ends next year.

That would allow the country to join the European Central Bank's bond-buying programme, which would boost market confidence and make it easier for Greece to return to the bond market later this year.

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