BRUSSELS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Greece will have a primary surplus in the budget of 3.7 percent of gross domestic product next year, exceeding the target of 3.5 percent agreed with its euro zone creditors, the European Commission forecast on Monday.
The size of next year’s Greek primary surplus, which is the budget balance before debt-servicing costs, is a bone of contention between euro zone governments and the International Monetary Fund, which believes it will be only 1.5 percent.
A further disagreement between the two lenders to Greece is what surplus Athens will be able to maintain in the years after 2018. The higher the surplus and the longer it is kept the less is the need for any further debt relief to Greece.
The IMF insists Greek debt, which the Commission forecast on Monday would fall to 177.2 percent of GDP this year from 179.7 percent in 2016 and then decline again to 170.6 percent in 2018, is unsustainably high and that Greece must get debt relief.
Germany and several other euro zone countries say that, if Greece does all the agreed reforms, then debt relief will not be necessary.
The Commission forecast that Greek investment would triple to 12 percent of GDP this year and rise further to 14.2 percent of GDP next year as the economy expands 2.7 percent in 2017 and 3.1 percent in 2018 after years of recession.
It also forecast Greek unemployment would fall to 22 percent of the workforce this year from 23.4 percent last year and decline further to 20.3 percent in 2018. (Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)