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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

Poverty in Greece
In 2010, Europe fell into a deep financial crisis that brought Greece to the edge of bankruptcy and “triggered a surge in unemployment [and] poverty.” For the past eight years, the situation has remained bleak. However, a new Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, offers the potential to reduce poverty in Greece.

The Crisis Explained

The financial crisis in Greece began after the global recession of 2007 to 2009; a recession that was sparked by the United States’ housing market crisis and which affected countries around the world. A few months after the end of the recession, the Greek government announced that for years it had been underreporting its budget deficit. This created a loss of confidence in the Greek economy and led the country to be shut out of financial markets. As a result, Greece was unable to pay its increasing debts.

With the threat of Greek bankruptcy and another European-wide financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Commission began an international bailout program for Greece.

Greece received international bailouts three times, in 2010, 2012 and 2015. However, these bailouts came with conditions: Greece was required to overhaul its economy and implement harsh austerity measures including severe budget cuts and steep tax increases. Pensions were cut and public assets were sold. Though these measures kept Greece from descending into bankruptcy, its economy continued to suffer and unemployment and poverty rates surged.

The Crisis’ Effect on Poverty in Greece

Only 2.2 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty in 2009. By 2013, this number reached 17.1 percent. Between 2008 and 2016, the rate of unemployment increased dramatically, from 7.8 percent of the population to 23.6 percent. Hundreds of thousands who are employed hold low-paying, temporary jobs.

In addition, household incomes have dropped by one-third since the beginning of the financial crisis, and the number of people who are homeless leaped from 11,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2016. The dire financial situation has greatly impacted a majority of Greeks: in 2014, 95 percent of Greece’s population stated it had difficulty coping financially.

Over the past eight years, many local and national organizations have formed to aid poor people and provide them with food and shelter. However, these organizations do not have the resources to aid everyone and are unable to create the large-scale economic change that is required to improve Greek lives. The Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, has this ability.

The New Debt Relief Deal

Greece’s third international bailout program is set to end in August 2018. In preparation for the end of this program, Eurozone finance ministers met to discuss possibilities to address the continuing crisis. During talks in Luxembourg on June 21 through 22, 2018, 19 Eurozone nations reached an agreement that the European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, signify the end of the Greek crisis.

The new debt-relief package has been hailed as both “historic” and “momentous.” The deal will provide Greece with an extra 15 billion euros in loans during July and August 2018. In addition, the Greek government will receive a 10-year extension to pay back its loans from the three international bailouts, which includes low-interest rates. The deal will ultimately reduce the country’s dependence on the IMF and other European countries. There is also hope that it will reduce poverty in Greece.

Though Greece’s debt is still 180 percent of its GDP and progress will take time, the new deal can positively impact the country’s financial situation. The broad improvements in Greece’s economy can stimulate job growth and ultimately reduce the number of people in poverty.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr