Greek EconomyIn May 2010, Greece experienced its first economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to rebuild the Greek economy. As a result, Greece was given $146 billion in loans. Greece suffered economic frailty, in part from hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the global economic crisis, and switching to the euro. Then, in August 2018, Greece received its final loan from European creditors. This loan signaled the end of the bailout program that began in 2015. To work toward financial security, Greece has committed to running a budget surplus until 2060 and accepting continued support from the EU.

Despite this financial turmoil, tourism presents a bright light for the Greek economy in increased revenue. Tourists’ interest in Greece began to boom during the 2004 Olympics, held in Athens. Although the Olympics have been cited as the main cause of the economic crisis in Greece, tourist industries in Athens were surveyed and concluded “the Games upgraded the validity of Athens on the international tourist market.” Since the 2004 Olympics, Athens, on average, has lengthier tourist stays than other major urban destinations, such as Paris and Barcelona. Athenian hotels have also become more efficient since the Games. And ticket purchases for historical sites have also seen an incline.

Tourism Helps the Greek Economy

This surge in tourism has sparked a large revenue intake for the Greek economy. In 2018, travel services in Greece reported an intake of 16 billion euros, approximately $18 billion, up 14 million euros since 2017. They attribute this surplus to a 40 percent increase in travel receipts and a 53 percent increase in travel sales. That year, the effect of tourism on Greece’s gross domestic product was an estimated 20.6 percent, reaching $44.6 billion. In fact, this is double the global average of 10.4 percent. This means one out of every five euros spent in Greece stems from travel and tourism.

Greece is happy with how tourism initiatives have been implemented in the past several years. The country also acknowledges 988,000 jobs lie in its tourism and travel industries. In 2019, Greece expects this job market to reach 1 million jobs. As such, travel and tourism is the largest employer in Greece. Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic Elena Kountoura has noted Greece’s plan for the continued growth of the tourism sector: “We intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximize its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity.”

The reparation of the Greek economy has developed a dependence on tourism and travel. From the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea to historical sites such as Delphi, people from all over the world flock to witness a small piece of Greece’s beauty. What they may not realize, however, is they are working to support an economy on the mends. And the positive effect of tourism will continue to increase annually, as Greece works toward financial stability.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Eyes have centered on Athens in recent weeks as Greece has attempted to manage its overwhelming debt. This is the climax of a five year decay that has left Greece’s finances at a standstill and its healthcare system in critical condition. With banks limiting withdrawals to just 60 euros per day, it is hard to tell which has become scarcer, money or medicine.

Since 2010, Greece’s public healthcare system has decreased its spending on drugs by 32 percent and at the same time owes 1.2 billion dollars to international drug manufacturers. This reflects an overall declining trend; between the years of 2009 and 2012, government healthcare spending fell by 25 percent.

These reductions are visible throughout treatment centers in Greece. One of the largest hospitals in Athens, Gennimatas General Hospital, has faced shortages of antibiotics. It also lacks the budget to fix its damaged medical equipment which has resulted in week long waits for procedures such as CAT scans and MRIs.

Unfortunately, healthcare struggles such as these have become common to Greeks. Currently, 27 percent of people lack employment which has led to a significant loss of healthcare coverage. Many can no longer afford even government subsidized insurance while free health care eligibility has become much more stringent; 2.5 million people, essentially a quarter of all Greeks, lack health insurance.

Even though less people have coverage, the usage of Greece’s public healthcare system has spiked. As the crisis escalated in 2010, public inpatient and primary care services experienced six percent more usage. Just one year later, this figure had more than tripled to nearly a 22 percent increase in healthcare usage. With fewer funds but even more people to treat, the system is folding in on itself.

Years ago, before the recession triggered Greece’s current crisis, significant faults in Greece’s health care already existed and hinted at an eventual failure. During the first decade of the 21st century, its healthcare system experienced massive and untenable increases in expenditures.

According to a World Health Organization Report, from 2003 to 2009, “general government spending rose from 59.5 percent to 70.3 percent of total health spending.” Pharmaceutical spending also increased by 80 percent, from 293 euros per capita in 2003 to 528 euros per capita in 2010. In 2009, as Greece approached the end of the decade, it had accumulated a 50 billion euro healthcare deficit.

Inefficient management, ineffective distribution of medical resources and increasing government spending on hospital debts were the main culprits behind the healthcare bubble, and its inevitable bursting.

Today, average Greeks can feel the unpleasant consequences of years of mismanagement. Those who arrive at Greece’s underfunded hospitals for treatment can often expect underhanded tactics like informal doctoral payments, which are essentially bribes. In one instance, a women who given birth in a hospital was prohibited from receiving her baby until her payments were made.

While more prominent hospitals like Evangelisimos do not wield these dishonest methods, their conditions are still poor. Even as the largest hospital in Greece, Evangelisimos still lacks enough beds and recently has run at 10 to 20 percent beyond its capacity. A patient noted that her single room that was crammed with three beds yet only housed one other person. This was due to a ceiling collapse that had obstructed the third vacant bed. Without funds to repair the damage, the hospital was forced to continue using the room.

Problems are not just contained to hospitals and treatment centers; the decline in prosperity itself has led to health issues across the nation. Since the crisis, suicides have increased dramatically in Greece. Between the years of 2010 and 2012, they rose by 35 percent.

Nutrition and obesity have become another burgeoning health issues as families have struggled to afford healthy foods. Experts have noticed this increase in particular among Greece’s poor. Ironically, economic down turn has also caused many to eat more at home to save money, with the consumption of pizza and fast food having fallen by over 20 percent.

In order to revive the Greek healthcare system, the nation’s government, the ‘troika,’ consisting of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have planned a set of strategies.

For these groups seeking solutions, the name of the game is efficiency. They have planned to overhaul Greece’s healthcare administration, hospitals and districts in order to effectively distribute healthcare resources evenly throughout the country. In order to prevent unchecked spending like before they have advised greater financial oversight.

While the Troika faces the resistance of residual bad habits, they hope for Greece to emerge from its healthcare crisis with a well-planned and functional health care system. And it seems that it has that potential: among its European Union peers, Greece actually has the highest concentration of physicians. Now, the nation must work to develop a system through which both its doctors and patients can thrive.

Andrew Logan

Sources: World Health Organization, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, CNN, The Washington Post, The Guardian
Photo: 99GetSmart

Why the Crisis in Greece is the United States' Problem - TBP
Because Greece is part of the European Union, its debt crisis may seem like it is only Europe’s problem.

That is not the case.

How the crisis in Greece pans out may in fact shape how the U.S. economy and geopolitics plays out in the next 10 or 20 years. If the United States does not step in to aid Greece, the United States will lose a large percentage of its trade profits from Europe. In addition, a lack of aid from Washington may assist the Sino-Russian alliance in influencing poorer European and Asian countries.

In 2004, U.S. trade exports to Greece reached $52.6 billion. With the economic decline in Greece, the country will be unable to continue to trade with the United States to the same degree. But this is not the only trade that the United States will lose as a result of the debt crisis in Greece.

The dollar is rising against the euro, which is partially a result of the crisis in Greece. While the word “rise” may imply that this is a positive sign, it is in actuality bad news for the U.S. economy. A dollar that is worth too much more against the euro will make U.S. goods more expensive for countries in the European Union. If the goods are too expensive, then many states will either purchase the goods in much lower quantities or will not be able to buy them at all.

Basically, if someone does not help Greece, the United States will lose a lot of money.

The other problem is Sino-Russian in nature. China has been spreading its sphere of influence. One of the ways in which China’s influence is growing is through the use of economic aid, and one of their most significant economic and political allies is Russia. Greece has been becoming increasingly friendly with Russia as a result of its economic difficulties.

According to an article by Yibada, “China has expressed interest in transforming Greece as a European base” for the “Belt and Road” initiative. This could lead China to aid the country.

China is offering Russia, Greece and other countries an alternative to Western aid institutions. As is well known, with money comes influence. If the United States wants to keep its influence over the world and continue to spread democracy, then it needs to continue to aid countries and perhaps even increase this aid.

Politically, China is undermining the sanctions against Russia and could continue to undermine U.S. foreign policy in the future.

If the United States does decide to be a major player in aiding Greece though, our economy will benefit majorly.

Stabilizing Greece will aid in stabilizing the euro, which in turn will at least assist the United States in maintaining its current trade with countries in the European Union. But, in addition, improvement in Greece’s economy will make it possible for Greece to become a more important trading partner for the United States.

It is up to the United States: this matter of aid could either help the United States, or it could damage its economy.

Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Borgen Project, Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard International Review, Mother Jones, U.S. Department of State, Yibada
Photo: Flickr