August 30, 2018 / 6:35 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Greece faces "long road" after exiting bailout - Weidmann

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ATHENS, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Greece still faces “a long road to recovery” after leaving its bailout programme last week and needs to continue balancing its books and cleaning up its banking sector, European Central Bank policymaker Jens Weidmann said on Thursday.

Greece emerged from the biggest bailout in economic history on Aug 20 but jaded Greeks are finding little reason to celebrate after nine years of cuts and job losses.

Weidmann, the head of Germany’s influential Bundesbank, praised Greece’s “impressive progress” but added Athens had to stay the course on reforms.

“(The) end of the third adjustment programme is not the finishing line, but a milestone on a long road to recovery,” Weidmann told an event in Athens.

Greece has received 288 billion euros ($335.98 billion) in financial aid since 2010, with the European Union as its biggest lender.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is trailing in the polls ahead of next year’s elections, said his government now had space to alleviate the tax burden.

But Weidmann said Greece should continue running a budget surplus, as well as reforming its institutions and further reducing the number of unpaid loans sitting at its banks.

“The route to future prosperity for Greece could lie in proving in the years ahead that it can stick to a sound fiscal path,” Weidmann said.

“Greece is currently running a marked structural budget surplus, which means that no further fiscal contraction would be necessary.” ($1 = 0.8572 euros) (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Francesco Canepa in Frankfurt; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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