* Greek finmin sees economy shrinking 25 pct by 2014
* Says 2012 primary deficit wider than expected
* IIF urges EU/IMF to extend aid plan, lower lending rates
By Nick Edwards and Harry Papachristou
BEIJING/ATHENS, Sept 18 Greece will meet its
nominal 2012 deficit reduction targets but faces growing strain
because of the deepening recession, Finance Minister Yiannis
Stournaras said on Tuesday as pressure grew on international
creditors to give Athens more time to catch up.
Forecasting that by 2014, the Greek economy would have
shrunk by 25 percent since the start of the crisis, Stournaras
said Athens would broadly meet a target of cutting the 2012
primary deficit, excluding debt servicing costs, to 2 billion
euros in nominal terms.
But he said the primary deficit figure would reach 1.5
percent of gross domestic product, compared with a previous
estimate of 1 percent, as the recession bit and he repeated a
plea for more time from the European Union and International
Monetary Fund troika.
"Otherwise, there is a great risk of prolonging the negative
consequences for the economy and society," he told a conference
Speaking in Beijing, Charles Dallara, the chief negotiator
representing Greece's private sector creditors, said Athens
should get cheaper rates on its 130 billion euro aid deal and at
least two more years from the EU and IMF to meet its targets.
But better terms could only come after the government of
conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras delivers on his
commitments to fiscal reform, Dallara, managing director of the
Institute of International Finance (IIF), told reporters.
"Once that has been done, and I am confident it will be
done, Europe and the IMF should move quickly to extend the
adjustment period for at least two years and provide the modest
additional financial support for that extension to be
effective," he said.
He said responses to the Greek debt crisis placed too much
emphasis on short-term austerity and not enough on improving the
country's longer-term competitiveness.
Samaras, leading a country in its fifth year of recession at
a time of rising discontent at home, wants two more years to
implement economic reforms tied to the aid package in order to
soften their impact.
On Tuesday, he received a glimmer of encouragement when
Greece posted its first monthly current account surplus in more
than two years for July, helped by a shrinking trade deficit and
stronger shipping revenues.
Inspectors from the so-called troika of the IMF, European
Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) are evaluating
Greek progress on agreed targets before releasing the next, 32
billion euro ($41.3 billion) tranche from the giant aid package.
They know that denial of this aid could tip Greece into
bankruptcy, an event that risks shaking the euro zone to its
foundations again just as huge efforts have been devised to
shore up Spain and so safeguard the single currency.
Athens, where Europe's debt crisis began nearly three years
ago, has been encouraged in its demands by a decision to give
Portugal - also the recipient of an international loan package -
more time to meet fiscal targets as recession saps Lisbon's
ability to deliver.
Greece's partners are reluctant to talk about a possible
extension for fear of lessening the pressure for reform.
But Socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said that the
troika was already working on the assumption that Greece would
get a two-year delay to reduce its deficit.
"In the mind of the troika, the extension is a fact.
Technical discussions are carried out under the assumption of a
two-year extension," he told a party conference.
He said the additional financing Greece would require for an
extension could be secured in a way that would not put extra
strain on European taxpayers.
He said the recapitalisation of Greek banks could be
financed through the ESM and EFSF, the European rescue funds,
Greek bonds could be bought back at discounted prices and the
European Central Bank could return to Greece the profits from
its Greek bond portfolio.
Cash-strapped Greece must come up with nearly 12 billion
euros of extra cuts for the next two years to get the money, and
it has fallen behind in reforms.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said last week that
lenders may agree to some sort of extension.
But Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter said in a
newspaper interview released on Sunday that Athens would get "a
few weeks" more time to meet terms of its international rescue.
The idea of having a year or two was dead and no extra money was
on the table, she said.
Greece's second loan deal envisages Athens returning to
international markets by 2015, but with two consecutive
parliamentary elections in May and June after political parties
struggled to form a coalition, the country lost ground on its
reform agenda. Deepening recession has also made the debt
targets less attainable.