ATHENS – After pumping more than 2.3 billion euros ($2.61 billion) in aid to businesses that had to shut for half a year during the still-lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece’s New Democracy government said they’re now on their own.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told SKAI TV there’s no more money coming although Greece got more than 32 billion euros ($36.26 billion) in loans and grants from the European Union for pandemic relief.
Still, he said the state budget sent to Parliament didn’t include any more additional support measures, including for restaurants, businesses and workers who had been given subsidies during lockdowns, the government now going full speed ahead with an economic recovery.
He said the priorities now are focused on the economy after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there won’t be any more lockdowns despite a resurgence of the pandemic that has brought record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths.
Attention now is being concentrated on limited aid for households being hit with big energy hike prices and as they are being hammered with rising food prices and the effect of lockdowns, calling it a “twin crisis.”
He said that wouldn’t affect plans to raise the minimum wage again in 2022 as the government has predicted a 7.1 percent growth rate for the economy that was devastated in 2020 and still in 2021 by the pandemic after shrinking 25 percent during an 8-year-old economic and austerity crisis.
That required 326 billion euros ($369.48 billion) in international bailout packages that will take decades to repay, further hampering any idea of providing more financial support to businesses or society.
A complicating factor is inflation which is also taking another big bite out of already-staggered household budgets as he estimated it could be as much as 4 percent in November and December.