Greece beats target for taking up EU co-financing funds
ATHENS Jan 2 (Reuters) - Greece beat its target for taking up European Union co-financing funds in 2013 after it streamlined businesses' access to the money, the Development Ministry said on Thursday.
Government data showed Athens beat its 3.89 billion euros ($5.36 billion) target - one of the conditions of its European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout - by 710 million.
Six years of recession have forced thousands of businesses to close and sent unemployment to record levels. The economy is forecast to return to 0.6 percent growth this year.
Greece must make sure it is eligible for 5.5 billion of EU funds by 2015 under its current 20.5 billion EU co-financing programme, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said.
"The absorption rate beat even the most upbeat projections," he said in a statement.
Investment in debt-laden Greece has dropped by about 60 percent since its prolonged recession began in 2008, crimping efforts to exit the downturn and kick-start growth.
Greece has been rescued from bankruptcy by the EU and IMF twice since 2010 with 240 billion euros of loans.
Hatzidakis said that Greece has shortened procedures for co-financed projects and started work again in December on a 7.6 billion euro toll road project that had been mothballed for three years.
"(The programme) cannot on its own resolve the problems faced by businesses and the economy," Hatzidakis said. "But it can be a catalyst for the return to growth."
Greece ranked fourth out of the EU's 27 member states in absorbing the funds in 2013, up from 18th a year earlier.