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Tourism Boom Drives Greek Economy To Surplus

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Record spending by foreigners as Greece's tourism industry slashed prices helped the country's current account post its first surplus last year since official data began in 1948, central bank figures showed on Wednesday.

Tourism receipts, the country's biggest foreign-currency earner, rose 15 percent to a record EUR€12 billion, while imports shrank.

Current account deficits have been a drag on the Greek economy for decades, offset with borrowing and capital investment from abroad.

The payments gap swelled to 15 percent of national output in 2008 after the country entered the euro zone, fed by a debt-fueled economic boom that led to a consumption frenzy on foreign imports.

But the ensuing debt crisis in 2009 plunged the country into an economic depression that shrank its economy by almost a quarter, helping Athens correct the imbalance and leading to a current account surplus of EUR€1.24 billion last year, or about 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Economists expect Greece to repeat a surplus this year but say this does not mean that it has turned the corner yet towards becoming an export-driven, competitive economy.

"For 2014 we expect the current account to stay in surplus as imports will remain weak alongside improving tourism and exports," said Eurobank economist Platon Monokroussos.

About half of the adjustment was due to cyclical factors such as shrinking imports of goods, which dropped 54 percent since 2008.

(Reuters)

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