Greek tax revenues exceeded expectations in October, helping the country stay on track to meet its 2013 fiscal target, the government said.

In what may strengthen Athens' hand in protracted bailout talks with its international lenders, the government posted a primary budget surplus - before interest payments and one-off revenues - of €1.1 billion.

Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told reporters that tax revenue in the period was €250m ahead of target.

This shows that households and business are managing to cope with record unemployment and a wave of corporate bankruptcies in the sixth year of an austerity-fuelled recession.  

This means that Athens was on course to hit its 2013 fiscal targets and fulfil conditions to seek additional debt relief from its international lenders, Staikouras said.
              
"At a huge sacrifice to Greek citizens, unprecedented in post-war Europe, it seems that the country is succeeding its goal," Staikouras said.
              
A €345m primary surplus target at general government level, which also includes the budgets of social security administrations and local government, was "feasible", Staikouras said.
              
Greece has a long history of questionable reporting of data, but it is now under close scrutiny from its lenders, the so-called troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank.
              
Today's figures may help Athens in negotiations with the troika, which questions its promise that it will hit its 2014 targets without resort to new, unpopular savings.

Under the terms of its bailout, Greece's primary budget must be balanced this year and have a surplus of €2.751 billion, or 1.5% of GDP, in 2014. But lenders believe that Athens will miss the 2014 target by about €2 billion, due to social spending overruns and possible tax revenue shortfalls.
              
Athens disagrees, saying that expected economic recovery and better tax collection will help it hit its targets.
              
The government has also been spending far less on public investment than it initially planned to fix its finances this year. Public investment spending was €3.32 billion in the months from January to October, about €1.6 billion less than targeted for the period.
              
The protracted negotiations could drag on into next year, delaying further loans to Athens, a senior euro zone official said late last night.
              
Greece is due to receive up to €5.9 billion of EU/IMF lifeline loans by the end of the year, according to a current disbursement schedule.
              
The two sides are not in a hurry to conclude a deal since the country has no pressing funding needs.
              
About €1.85 billion of bonds are falling due on January 11, according to Thomson Reuters data. Its next big bonds, worth about €9.3 billion, mature in the second half of May.