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Economy

Greece’s Tourism, Food Sectors Get 700-Million Euro COVID-19 Shot

ATHENS – Withering in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the tourism industry and closed bars, restaurants, taverns and caterers in Greece will receive another 700-million euro ($825 million) state injection.

They’ve especially been driven down over the last 13 months, with lockdowns keeping non-essential businesses closed more than half that time, the food sector likely to see thousands of companies not reopening when it’s lifted.

That’s part of an overarching plan to pour another 3 billion euros ($3.54 billion) into the economy after the New Democracy government in 2020 fueled it with 17.5 billion euros ($20.63 billion) to prevent a collapse.

The European Union has also given Greece 32 billion euros ($37.72 billion) in loans and grants but there haven’t been any reports where that has gone and if it’s to be in the coming subsidies or if laid-off workers would be aided as well.

The government is in a seventh phase as well of cheap loan programs known as Deposit To Be Returned unless an assisted company goes bust and can’t repay what it borrowed.

A senior Finance Ministry Source not named told Kathimerini that continuing aid for businesses and workers is draining state resources and increasing a budget deficit, already cutting growth estimates.

The government will give food-related businesses 350 million euros ($412.55 million) with a fast-track procedure, the paper said, to keep them afloat while closed, and to buy raw materials if they open again, which many won’t.

The Development and Investment Ministry is to announce a detailed plan of support using European funds that will subsidize some of their monthly losses as the government has been doing with rent.

The plan will reportedly include covering eligible costs to make sure the food businesses have enough cash flow to get up and running immediately when a third lockdown, now almost five months old, is ended, no date given yet.

The other 350 million euros, also with EU financial backing, will go to tourism-related companies as the government is set to open for visitors on May 15 but with requirements they either have been vaccinated or show proof of negative tests.

Tourism is the country’s biggest revenue engine and brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 169.93 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and employs a quarter of the workforce.

What goes into that plan won’t be announced until late April or early May, a high-placed source not named told the paper as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is balancing saving lives and the economy.

“Our aim is to support the enterprises of these two sectors so that they can restart their operation upon the opening of this year’s tourism season,” Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told the paper.

He said state support measures will surpass 14 billion euros ($16.5 billion) in 2021 and that the government will continue to prop up businesses and workers as long as it can, especially tourism or there won't be any economy left standing.

Besides food service and tourism, measures will include a reduced corporate income tax deposit, freezing the solidarity tax for 2022 too, and the extension of reduced social security contributions beyond 2021 or further reduction by the end of 2023.

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