IMF sees Greek economy accelerating in 2019

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The International Monetary Fund said Friday it is optimistic on Greece's growth and employment prospects for this year, but urged the government to stick to reforms to maintain the momentum.

In a report published following five-day talks with officials in Athens, IMF officials said that the battered Greek economy is set to grow 2.4 percent this year, up from 2.1 percent in 2018.

The report also argued that the heavily indebted country's medium-term ability to repay its creditors — mostly its European partners and the IMF — remains "robust."

It added, however, that the country remains vulnerable to a potential slowdown in the global economy and must press ahead with reforms, particularly to make the labor market more flexible.

Greece exited its eight-year bailout program in August. But it remains subject to scrutiny — lighter than during the bailout years but stricter than other countries that received rescue loans — from its European creditors.

If the reviews are satisfactory, creditors will return to Greece, through June 2022, 4.8 billion euros ($5.45 billion) in profits from their Greek bond holdings.

Representatives of Greece's European creditors also took part in the talks in Athens this week. In a statement Friday, they said that particular attention was paid to reforms Greece has committed to complete by the end of last year, and to ways of reducing Greek banks' bulky portfolio of non-performing loans.

The statement didn't comment on the Greek government's progress in implementing the measures. A full report on the European delegation's findings will be released Feb. 27, with a decision on whether to release the first batch of funds expected March 11.