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Economy

COVID-19 in Greece Leaves Households Hurting for Cash

ATHENS – The COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown that closed businesses for up to 10 weeks and left people out of work will have such a severe aftershock that Greek households will be in the worst financial state in the European Union.

A survey by the debt collection company Intrum found that 67 percent of Greek families will be left with far less than they had before the pandemic struck, just as the country was recovering from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.

Greece was tied with Romania for the dire straits of COVID-19 even though the New Democracy government pumped 17.5 billion euros ($19.87 billion) into the economy in 800-euro ($908.20) subsidy checks for laid-off workers as well as businesses not allowed to reopen until the May 4 start of a gradual lifting of the lockdown.

With Greece dependent on tourism, which brings in as much as 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 176.44 billion euros ($200.3 billion,) workers in that sector are set to suffer too as estimates are the sector could fall off a cliff. 

The European average for households losing income was 48 percent but while Greece ironically had one of the best records in holding down the number of cases and deaths it has the worst record for the economic effect.

With debt collectors now allowed to go after debtors again after that was also suspended, Intrum's report indicated the worst-off Greeks will bear the brunt and be targeted.

New Democracy and its former coalition partner, the now-defunct PASOK Socialists, owed a reported 250 million euros ($283.81 million) to banks in bad loans and the bank officers approving them received immunity from prosecution.

According to the survey, 61% of households in Greece think their bills are growing faster than their incomes, the second highest after France at 62 percent while the average is only 42 percent, said Kathimerini.

While bank deposits rose as people were mostly confined to their homes and shopping online, they are now likely to fall again to meet the cost of living and savings being eaten up by COVID-19 as well.

Some 52 percent of Greek households (fourth highest rate among the 24 countries) said they saved less because of the pandemic compared to the average of 39 percent.

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