Interview by MEGA TV of Greece with Poul Thomsen, IMF Mission Chief for GreeceWashington, D.C.
April 12, 2014
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Thomsen, financial analysts believe that the exit of Greece to the market is risky. What is your take on this?
MR. THOMSEN: No, I think this is an important milestone set. You know, one of the fundamental objectives of this program is, of course, to bring Greece back to the market, to restore market access. And this was a first important step, so we very much welcome that and I think it’s also going to help facilitate Greek commercial banks’ ability to go back to the market. So this was an important step.
INTERVIEWER: The European officials argue that since they have 80 percent of the debt and the rate is so low, debt sustainability is secured. Do you agree with them?
MR. THOMSEN: We think that with debt at 175 percent of GDP, that is exceptionally high, it’s absolutely essential if Greece is to go back to market, to full market access, and be able to not rely on financing from official institution, that debt be brought down significantly.
INTERVIEWER: After four years in the program, debt remains high. And it’s obvious that Greece needs more money. Do you think that Greece needs a third program or can the country find money from other sources?
MR. THOMSEN: Well, I would not talk about a new program. We have a program. But that program, in our view, will need more financing. That program runs until the beginning of 2016. And in our view, it is not fully financed the whole way through to 2016. And one would need in the context of the next review to find some more money. We’re not looking at a big amount compared to the past. It’s nothing compared to the past. But I think we would need to look for some more official assistance, yes.
INTERVIEWER: When are you going back to Athens? There are a lot of rumors that there is “agreement” between Athens and the troika members to go back in the fall, not in the summer.
MR. THOMSEN: I think we will have a short visit in June just to look at the numbers. But I also think that it’s probably realistic to expect that the main mission will only take place after the summer.
INTERVIEWER: And my last question is, what do you say to the Greek youth who believe that after four years of a program there is no future for them in Greece?
MR. THOMSEN: This is a very good question. It’s an excellent question because this is what it’s all about. Youth unemployment is at a totally unacceptable level. Unemployment is at an unacceptable level, but particularly youth unemployment. The program is all about creating prospects for growth, better prospects for job creation and higher incomes. And all the structural reforms -- liberalization, opening up, reducing taxes, streamlining the public sector – are in the end about creating opportunities for growth. So I would say to the young people that this program, implementation of this program, is what brings hope for the future.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much.
MR. THOMSEN: You are very welcome.