Greek minister wants to link debt payments to growth - Der Spiegel

BERLIN (Reuters) - Greece’s economy minister said it would be better to link the country’s debt repayments to its economic growth rate as it needs a feasible solution to bring its sovereign debt under control.

Athens faces about 10 billion euros (7 billion pounds) in repayments this summer and is shut out of international bond markets while it waits for a final bailout tranche from international lenders of 7.2 billion.

“At the moment, we spend around five percent of gross domestic product on servicing our debt. ...It would be better if we linked the repayment to growth: if growth is higher, we pay more, if it is lower, we pay less,” Georgios Stathakis said in an interview with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

Asked about 2.3 billion euros in debts Athens has to repay by the end of February, Stathakis replied: “We will service them (the debts).” Asked how, he simply repeated: “We will service them.”

Greece’s new leftist government opened talks on its bailout with European partners on Friday by flatly refusing to extend the programme or to cooperate with the international inspectors overseeing it.

New Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has promised to renegotiate agreements with the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund “troika” and write off much of Greece’s 320 billion euro debt, which at more than 175 percent of gross domestic product is the world’s second-highest after Japan.

Stathakis appeared open-minded about options for addressing Greece’s debt.

“We should wait and see what the talks bring and how feasible new proposals are in the fight against the debts. Not only do we have ideas on this; there are also deliberations in Germany and at the IMF,” he said. “It is a totally open agenda.”

Germany’s Finance Ministry denied on Friday a report in Der Spiegel that Berlin would be ready to discuss a new aid package for Greece of up to 20 billion euros if Tsipras accepted supervised economic reforms.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky