PARIS (Reuters) - Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Thursday that the government was restarting its privatization program and was committed to avoiding going into a primary deficit again.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government has been opposed to some asset sales but has promised not to cancel completed privatizations and only review some tenders as part of the terms of a four-month extension of its February bailout program.
“We are restarting the privatization process as a program making rational use of existing public assets,” said Varoufakis, speaking in Paris. “What we are saying is the Greek state does not have the capacity to develop public assets.”
“Beside the list of reforms we need to discuss ... appropriate primary surpluses,” he said.
Varoufakis said Athens wants private-public joint ventures, but that first there had to be a minimum investment commitment on behalf of bidders and secondly the state must retain a stake to ensure there was an income stream to finance pension funds.
Although he asked that the primary surplus target be reviewed he said the government did not want a primary deficit.
“We are very keen, and we have been trying to do this, to sit down with our partners and prioritize the reforms and even create bills that we will push through parliament tomorrow ... and know what we will do for the next four years, three years two years, not just in the short term,” Varoufakis said.
“At the very same time we need a fiscal plan that makes sense,” he said.
Referring to the primary budget surplus of 4.5 percent of GDP in 2016 as foreseen in the bailout program he said: “It means continued austerity that is self defeating because debt rises as a result of a collapse of GDP.”
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Mark John and Louise Ireland