Greek budget slides into big deficit in Jan-Jun due to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: People make their way outside the Bank of Greece headquarters in Athens, Greece, August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s COVID-19 lockdown pushed state finances into deficit in the first half of 2020, finance ministry data showed on Wednesday, punching a 5.86 billion euro (5.3 billion pounds) primary budget shortfall rather than a surplus.

The government was formerly projecting a primary budget surplus, which excludes debt-servicing costs, of 313 million euros in the six-month period.

Greece imposed a nationwide lockdown in March, paralysing an economy that had only emerged in the summer of 2018 from a decade-long debt crisis. The government now expects a deep recession.

The primary budget balance also excludes social security and local administration budgets. It differs from the figure monitored by Greece’s foreign lenders.

Net revenues came in at 19.2 billion euros, 3.66 billion euros below target, the finance ministry said.

“We had a fall in revenues in June which was smaller than the fall in May and better than our estimates,” a finance ministry official said. For the total year the budget will record a primary deficit, the official said.

Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Toby Chopra