Tourism Helps Greece Post First Current-Account Surplus in 65 Years

Feb 19, 2014 12:00 pm

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Tourism is one of the most important industries to Greece’s continued recovery and an important job-creating and profit-creating engine.

— Samantha Shankman

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Tourist sunbathe on Elia Beach in Mykonos, Greece. Mike / Flickr

Greece posted a current-account surplus last year for the first time, helped by a 15 percent rise in tourist revenue and an increase in European Union aid.

The 2013 surplus was 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion), about 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, compared with a deficit of 4.6 billion euros the year before, according to an e- mailed statement from the Bank of Greece today. The surplus is the first in central bank records dating back to 1948.

The result “is undoubtedly a historical development and extremely positive,” said Tassos Anastasatos, an economist at Eurobank Ergasias SA in Athens. “The question is whether this surplus is sustainable when the economy recovers.”

Greece, which was at the epicenter of the European financial crisis, saw its economy contract by 3.7 percent in 2013, bettering the government’s forecast for a 4 percent decline, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said last week. This year the economy may expand for the first time in seven years as it recovers from the budget cuts tied to the country’s 240 billion-euro bailout, the EU forecasts.

Imports of goods and services dropped 6.1 percent to 50.7 billion euros, while exports rose 1.6 percent to 50.3 billion euros, according to today’s figures.

Tourism revenue increased to 12 billion euros from 10.4 billion euros in 2012, while current transfers to the government, mainly EU loans for small businesses and infrastructure investment, rose by 2.4 billion euros helping to push the current account into surplus.

Editors: Ben Sills and James Hertling.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Bensasson in Athens at mbensasson@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net.

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