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Greek government raises deficit, debt prediction in draft budget

ATHENS, Greece -- The Greek government raised its debt and deficit forecasts for 2013 in a revised budget submitted to Parliament on Wednesday, highlighting the country's monumental struggle in turning around its public finances.

Greece's general government debt is projected to rise to 189.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2013, above the 182.5 percent predicted in the preliminary draft submitted at the start of the month. That's up from 175.6 percent forecast for this year.

The revised figures projected the government deficit at 5.2 percent of GDP, up from 4.2 percent predicted in the preliminary draft of the budget — but still an improvement from the 6.6 percent predicted for this year.

The recession, which will head into its sixth year, will be deeper than the 3.8-percent contraction the preliminary draft had predicted, with the new figures estimating the economy will shrink by 4.5 percent.

Unemployment is projected at 22.8 percent next year, marginally higher than the 22.4 percent predicted for 2012. Greece registered record unemployment in July this year, with the jobless rate reaching 25.1 percent. National debt will stand at 346.2 billion euros, slightly higher than this year's 340.6 billion euros, the revised budget showed.

Greece has been relying on the bailout funds since May 2010. Without them, it will be unable to pay its debts or continue paying salaries and pensions, leading to a messy default that would threaten its position in the 17-nation bloc that uses the euro as its currency.

The government has been struggling for months to agree with its international creditors on a new package of austerity measures worth 13.5 billion euros (US$17.4 billion) for 2013-14. The negotiations have also revealed cracks in the governing coalition, with the Democratic Left and the Socialists raising objections.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras submitted the revised 2013 budget figures just before lawmakers began voting on a privatization bill that will test the country's fractious governing coalition.

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