ATHENS – The sudden impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has totally derailed a rebounding economy in Greece just as it was coming back after a near decade-long crisis, now set to shrink again.
“It seems we have been settling at a range of between 5 and 10 percentage points,” Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told Open television station, bringing fears of a return to the crushing years of austerity that came with three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($352.75 billion) that ended on Aug. 20, 2018.
He added that estimates are changing constantly, depending on the effect of a lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the virus, closing all non-essential businesses and limiting people to only critical missions outside their homes.
As of April 25, Greece had reported 2,506 cases of COVID-19 and 130 deaths, among the lowest rates in the world among countries hardest hit, the lockdown seen working to keep the numbers down.
The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell 25 percent during the economic crisis but was on a path to rise 2-3 percent this year and with investors regaining interest under New Democracy, which replaces the anti-business former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that stymied major projects.
The economy grew by 1.9 percent last year, helped by booming tourism, which is also expected to take a big hit this year with estimates that revenues could fall 52-70 percent from the country’s biggest revenue engine that brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the GDP.
The Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund, which took part in two first rescue packages of 240 billion euros ($259.69 billion) said it also expects the economy will contract 10 percent this year and foresees some 22.3 percent unemployment.
Greece has extended lockdown measures by a week until May 4 and is expected to start easing restrictions slowly through staggered re-openings aimed at trying to bring the economy back as much as possible this year.