Greek Account Deficit 2011 9.9% of GDP
Greek Account Deficit 2008 14.7% of GDP
GDP estimate (3rd quarter):-7.2%
GDP estimate (2nd quarter):-6.3%
Population of Athens:
2012 estimates non-Greek immigrants at over 800,000 (legal) and 350,000+ (illegal) in Greece.
Rick Steves' Greece: Athens & the Peloponnese amazon.com
Nice interactive world map that shows the credit ratings for sovereign nations around the planet. That's right: Greece has a burning red "substantial risk" rating at present.
With national ratings and global banks all experiencing a phenomenon of credit rating 'adjustments', I don't know for how long this chart will be accurate.
Entire chart at chartbin.com
Bust: Greece, the Euro and the Sovereign Debt Crisis - By Matthew Lynn amazon.com
Greece's 'Odious' Debt: The Looting of the Hellenic Republic by the Euro, the Political Elite and the Investment Community - By Jason Manolopoulos amazon.com
Understanding the Crisis in Greece: From Boom to Bust - By Theodore Pelagidis amazon.com
The Imminent Crisis: Greek Debt and the Collapse of the European Monetary Union amazon.com
Eyewitness Greece - Athens and the Mainland - 352 Pages
"Most Greeks know the term vicious cycle — or favlos kyklos. But when you ask them the Greek phrase for virtuous cycle, they often struggle to find the term or even deny it exists.
After six years of recession, which have shrunk the Greek economy by a quarter and left the country with an unemployment rate of 27 percent, it is not surprising that vicious cycles loom large in the Greek psyche. But there is also a Greek expression for virtuous cycle — enaretos kyklos — and the country may be beginning to enjoy one.
...the big question is whether Mr. Samaras will implement fully the 300 actions he has agreed to with his euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund. These are mainly to do with modernizing the country and liberalizing the economy."
"Greece’s GDP shrank by 40 billion euros between 2010 and 2013 to 182 billion euros, and public debt amounted to 175% of that figure, or 318.7 billion euros, according to a Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) report forwarded to Eurostat as notification of the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) for 2014."
"While the financial world is celebrating the Greek return to the bond markets, I am asking myself this question: is this a good time for Greece to default on its foreign debt? It is not a subject of polite conversion in Brussels or Athens. Nor does it appear to be a popular subject for investors’ conferences.
For the first time since the crisis Greece is in a position to default. It has a primary budget surplus – before interest payments. The European Commission has forecast the primary surplus to reach 2.7 per cent of gross domestic product this year, rising to 4.1 per cent in 2015. The Greek current account registered a first surplus. Greece is no longer dependent on foreign investors.
... If I can discern any strategy in the official eurozone policy towards Greece, I would describe it this way: let’s generate a massive financial investment bubble and hope some of the money trickles down into the real economy eventually."
"Eurobank will be the third Greek lender after Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) and Piraeus (BOPr.AT) to tap capital markets to bolster it equity this year, as signs that Greece is starting to recover from its severe debt crisis are luring foreign investors back to battered Greek assets.
Athens returned to the bond market on Thursday after a four-year exile, raising 3.0 billion euros with a five-year bond that was snapped up by foreign investors.
Alpha Bank and Piraeus raised a combined 2.95 billion euros last month.
Eurobank, with a market value of 2.47 billion euros and 95 percent owned by the HFSF bank rescue fund, will proceed with a combined offering of new shares to international and domestic investors."
"The journey has been an epic one, but Greece has reached, if not the destination, at least a waymark. The last time that its government raised long-term funds was in March 2010, just weeks before the markets lost confidence in Greece altogether, forcing its first bail-out. This week the Greek government returned to the markets, raising €3 billion ($4.1 billion) in five-year bonds at a yield of just under 5% in a heavily oversubscribed issue.
...The scale of the rescue effort was made necessary by the delay in recognising that Greece was bust and needed a debt restructuring; much of the early official lending was used to repay private creditors as the bonds they held matured. In early 2012 Greece did carry out such a restructuring, wiping out over €100 billion of government debt. Despite this relief, the crisis intensified. In two nail-bitingly close elections held in the summer of 2012, the country came close to a catastrophic “Grexit” from the single currency."
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Athens for a brief visit on Friday, amid a wave of optimism among Greek and European officials over the country's successful return to bond markets this week.
But the German leader remains a contested figure in Greece, having been among the most vocal supporters of painful austerity policies — and security was tight. Police banned protests across most of central Athens, and deployed some 5,000 officers across the capital.
...During a visit in 2012, the German chancellor had been greeted by mass anti-austerity protests that turned violent. Security this time was also tightened further after a powerful car bomb exploded early Thursday outside the Bank of Greece, causing damage but no injuries. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras in a newspaper article criticized the cordon, saying Merkel would not get a sense of the impact of the austerity measures she supported."
"Greece has made a faster return to the international bond market than many thought possible. Four years ago, self-appointed experts (and the markets) predicted the debt-ridden economy would crash out of the eurozone. Two years ago Athens undertook the biggest sovereign debt restructuring in history. Now it has successfully raised its own debt on very favourable terms.
....Greece currently pays just under 2 per cent interest on official loans. One way to look at this week’s bond issue is that Athens chose to pay a 3 per cent premium to recover some sovereignty from the troika. A big question for bondholders is therefore what the motivation is for incurring this cost.
An optimistic explanation is that the coalition simply wishes to use the market’s approbation to secure public support for completing the necessary tough policies. The patient is resigned to taking the medicine, troika or no troika."
"The country's desire to issue the bond, its first longer-term debt sale since its international bailout in 2010, was well known. But details of the planned offering and indications of healthy investor appetite spurred a rally Wednesday in Greece's existing securities. The yield on the 10-year Greek bond fell 0.26 percentage point, to close at 5.837%, according to Tradeweb. Yields fall as prices rise.
The new sale is expected to close Thursday, the day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a visit. Bankers working on the transaction said investors intended to place more than €11 billion ($15.2 billion) of orders. The banks themselves account for €1.3 billion of that. People familiar with the matter said Greece could raise €2.5 billion from the sale.
The bond, which will mature in five years, is likely to pay investors a return close to 5%, bankers said."
"An anniversary approaches: Nearly four years ago, Greece was bailed out.
It was never meant to happen. Under the treaty setting up the eurozone, countries were protected from having to take on the debts of others.
...So the Greek experiment - to save the single currency - is unprecedented in modern times.
The improving statistics should not be ignored or discounted but neither should the new poor, a lost generation, the thousands of Greeks who have left for Australia and Canada. That, too, is part of the Greek story."
"Klaus Regling, head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), told the weekly newspaper To Vima it was «natural» that Greece wanted to test the markets, but warned it to not pay too steep a yield, to avoid increasing its debt load.
...Athens aims to raise about 2 billion euros' worth of five-year bonds, according to banking and government sources.
Greece initially planned to return to bond markets with a small test issue in the second half of the year, after more tangible evidence that its ongoing, six-year recession is over."
"The Getty Museum has announced that it is voluntarily returning a 12th-century Byzantine illuminated New Testament to a monastery in Greece after learning that the item had been illegally removed from the Monastery of Dionysiou more than 50 years ago.
Officials at the Getty said in a release on Monday that the museum acquired the manuscript in 1983 as part of a "large, well-documented" collection."
"Almost four years exactly since Greece became the first euro zone country to seek an EU-IMF bailout, there is nonetheless a tentative sense that its economy might just be turning a corner.
Last Sunday’s vote – which covered everything from the liberalisation of the dairy industry to anti-corruption clauses – unlocked the final major tranche of bailout loans under the second Greek bailout after six months of negotiation between the troika and the government. Some €6.3 billion of the €8.3 billion tranche will be released before May in time for a €9.3 billion debt repayment cliff, with a further set of smaller tranches scheduled in the summer.
The government has said it hopes to avoid a third bailout when the EU’s portion of the money comes to an end in December, though euro group head Jeroen Dijsselbloem was cautious on Tuesday, saying a decision would not be made until later in the year."
"Having finally struck a deal with the EU and IMF to keep bailout loans flowing, Athens is preparing to dip its toe back into the bond market with a five-year bond for up to 2 billion euros.
The government has not said when the syndicated issue might be launched but having mandated banks for the sale the likelihood is sooner rather than later. It’s a remarkably quick return two years after a debt restructuring which was essentially a default.
Today, there could be more good news. Moody’s will review its credit rating of Greece and it is possible that an upgrade – or a signal of future intention to do so – could be forthcoming. Moody’s upped Greece two notches to Caa3 late last year but it remains deep, deep in junk territory. It also has some catching up to do. Both S&P and Fitch already rate Greece three notches higher.
The finance minister told us this week that Greece expects to fund itself unaided in 2016 and return to economic growth this year. Yannis Stournaras said Athens did not need additional financing beyond its current bailout for the next year and hoped it would not need fresh aid for the year after that. But by running a primary budget surplus it could be eligible for further debt relief from its euro zone partners which may take the form of extending repayment terms on existing bailout loans and lowering interest rates rather than injecting fresh funds."
"Euro zone finance ministers, meeting in Athens under tight security on Tuesday, approved the release of 8.3 billion euros in rescue loans to Greece, pointing to signs that the country is emerging from its economic crisis.
“It has been an arduous process, but now we have a positive outcome,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said at a news conference in Athens announcing loans worth $11.5 billion.
In light of recent street demonstrations by Greeks protesting the belt-tightening measures that have been necessary to keep the bailout money flowing, security in Athens was stepped up for the event. The police banned demonstrations in much of the city center, and helicopters circled the site where foreign dignitaries were gathered."
"Greece could be on the verge of making one of the fastest market comebacks of a defaulted sovereign ever recorded.
To the surprise of doomsayers who just two years ago reckoned its debts were so big that only a return to a devalued drachma could save it from decades of ruin, Greece is now mulling a five-year bond sale within the next three months, according to a finance ministry official.
The plan to return to capital markets just over 24 months after its debt restructuring amounted to default appears to make little sense on paper.
Estimates of Greece's potential market borrowing costs over five years range from 3.25 percent to 6.5 percent - indicating that even the most optimistic scenario is more than double the roughly 1.5 percent cost of borrowing from the European Union."
"U.S. investors are adding money into European equity markets that suffered the most in the 2011 debt crisis, helping propel stocks from Greece to Italy to this year’s biggest gains.
Benchmarks indexes in Greece, Portugal and Italy have surged at least 14 percent this year, posting the best performances by developed markets. Assets increased $18 million to $21 million for a U.S.-listed exchange-traded fund tracking the FTSE Portugal 20 Index in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Traders added $102 million to a security that follows Greece’s ASE Index, while piling in to ETFs tracking indexes in Italy and Spain. Money held in funds that replicate German and French equity gauges dropped."
"Greece's parliament stripped legal immunities from five lawmakers from the far-right Golden Dawn party on Wednesday, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges against its members."
"Migrants and asylum-seekers detained in Greece are being forced to endure deplorable conditions, often with devastating effects on their health, according to a report from aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Doctors who have attended internment camps, police stations and coastguard facilities around the country described "a living hell" for thousands of immigrants denied fresh air, natural light and basic sanitation."
“Up to the moment, we don’t see a need for a third bailout,” Stournaras said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Athens. “I think the program money, along with the better performance on the fiscal side, are enough to cover us fully for the next 12 months, and under certain conditions that could continue up to well inside 2016.”
The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) rose 0.6 percent to 1335.74 yesterday, while Greece’s 10-year bond yield fell 10 basis points to 6.57 percent, the lowest since mid-2010."
"Piraeus Bank SA said Wednesday it had completed a EUR1.75 billion share capital increase, the second by a Greek bank this week, signaling a growing confidence by foreign investors in the nation's banking sector.
The announcement by Piraeus, Greece's largest domestic lender by assets, comes just a day after smaller rival Alpha Bank AE announced the completion of a separate EUR1.2 billion capital increase following a successful placing of its shares with foreign investors."
...Eurobank, now under state control, faces the biggest shortfall--requiring EUR2.9 billion. It has announced plans to move ahead with a EUR3 billion share capital increase to cover its needs. NBG, which needs to plug a EUR2.2 billion hole in its balance sheet, says it can raise the money without selling more shares.
"A Chinese-backed group is set to win Greece's biggest privatization prize so far, a 915-million-euro deal to develop a prime seaside property at the former Athens airport of Hellenikon, two sources close to the talks told Reuters.
The sole bidding group, led by Greek real estate firm Lamda Development (LMDr.AT) and backed by China's Fosun (0656.HK) and Abu-Dhabi-based property firm Al Maabar, raised its initial offer by 25 percent, the country's privatization agency HRADF said in a statement.
According to two senior HRADF officials directly involved in the talks, the improved offer is satisfactory and will most likely be accepted by the agency's advisers.
"I consider it highly unlikely that our advisers will recommend us to turn down the offer," one of the two officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity."
"Greece's government risks another rebellion over bailout terms this week after milk producers lobbied against a move to free up prices as part of efforts to make the economy more competitive.
The country's international lenders want it to ditch rules, such as limiting the shelf life of fresh milk to five days, that effectively deter importers.
But Greek dairy producers and lawmakers representing farming constituencies are fighting the move to call milk up to 11 days old 'fresh' - the latest in a long line of last-minute disruptions to Greece's bailout reviews with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Six lawmakers from within the ruling coalition - three from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party and three from the Socialist PASOK - have opposed the proposal that will be submitted to parliament on Friday as part of an omnibus reform bill that Greece must pass to secure bailout aid.
If they vote against it, Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos could be forced to expel them, further reducing the government's slim majority of just 153 seats in the 300-seat assembly."
"The ratings agency today reaffirmed its B-rating on Greece and said the outlook is stable. Greece's rating is still seven notches below what is considered to be investment grade. Ratings matter because they can affect a country's interest payments."
"The legislation applies to Jews who were born in Greece and left the country before May 1945. A similar piece of legislation applying only to Jews of Greek origin living in Israel was passed in 2011. The new legislation, which will take effect within the next few weeks, applies to Jews of Greek origin living elsewhere in the world.
Dimitrios Dollis, the former deputy foreign minister who initiated the legislation, said he did not believe that many eligible candidates would exercise their right to obtain Greek citizenship and move back to the country, but that was not the point. “It’s about us feeling slightly better about correcting our past mistakes,” he told Haaretz in a phone interview. “We are talking about one of the most ancient Jewish communities in Europe.”
Before World War II, an estimated 100,000 Jews lived in Greece, spread out in more than 30 organized communities. After it was almost completely wiped out during the Holocaust, the Jewish community of Greece now numbers about 5,000."
"[Bank] Piraeus says its three-year €500m bond attracted orders of more than €3bn. Little wonder. With a coupon of 5 per cent, it offers considerably more yield than similar post-bailout bonds issued by Spain’s Bankia and Portugal’s BCP.
“There is a reach for yield in the market but beyond that investors are looking for assets that offer performance potential and credit upside,” says Oliver Sedgwick, head of European investment grade syndicate at Goldman Sachs.
“[Greek banks] trade at a much wider spread relative to other peripheral banks and if you’re positive on the Greek macro environment this would lead to spreads tighten to much lower more normalised level.”
Analysts speculate that the Greek government, which owns a large stake of preference shares in Piraeus, will follow this year with its own first post-crisis bond."
Entertaining visual essay about the positive side of Greece
"After seven months of faltering negotiations, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Tuesday that Greece had reached a deal with its foreign lenders on economic reforms necessary to unlock billions of euros in crucial rescue funding. He also pledged to distribute 500 million euros to one million Greeks hit hardest by the country’s economic crisis.
“The long negotiations with the troika have been completed successfully,” Mr. Samaras said in a televised news conference. “United, the government achieved its mission.”
He said his administration would honor a pledge to give a portion of a projected primary surplus — a budget surplus after debt payments — to “recompense the massive sacrifices of the Greek people.” Members of the police and security forces on low salaries would be among the beneficiaries of the immediate delivery of the €500 million, or $695 million."
"Samaras told reporters: "The long negotiations with the troika have been successfully concluded. When others doubted the economy's achievements or even tried to thwart them, this government, united, went on [with the business of] seriously pursuing its mission, to get the country out of the crisis."
Listing what he described as the 21-month-old government's achievements – preventing Greece's exit from the eurozone, ending the country's prolonged recession and attaining a primary budget surplus "earlier than the [financial assistance programme] foresaw" – Samaras said the time had come when austerity-hit Greeks could finally take back what they had lost.
With a primary budget surplus – ie, before debt interest payments – to be formally announced by the Greek statistics agency in April, he pledged that his administration would act on its promise to help those most affected by the crisis."
"Greece will probably sell bonds for the first time in four years before May as the nation seeks to rebuild its finances following an international bailout, Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said.
The debt sale will be part of “a series” of positive developments before this May’s European Parliament elections, Chrysochoidis, 58, said in an interview in Athens on Monday. “We will get the next loan tranche, the country will return to markets, with a slightly high interest rate, which will fall after, and Greece won’t remain in this drama of quarterly troika reviews.”
This is an interesting look at a facet of the economic reality in Greece. It is very reminiscent of the same feature that was prevalent in the American 'Great Depression' of the 1930s, when vast swaths of people kept jobs by simply working without pay for businesses and public institutions which were virtually penniless.
"On a recent morning, the 51-year-old father of three and his 38-year-old wife, Alexandra Tsitoura, pull up their 9-year-old Fiat outside an empty office building.
Tsitoura also works at Hellenic Shipyards. Together, she and her husband used to make around $3,000 a month. Alexandra Tsitoura and Nikos Aivatzidis with their three children, Marios, 2, (left), Fani, 9, and Dimitris, 6, in their home in Athens.
As they get out of the car, they're greeted by a pack of stray dogs, looking for food. "My co-worker used to feed them," Aivatzidis says. "But she stopped coming to work."
Aivatzidis keeps coming in hopes that he and his wife will eventually get paid. And he has another reason for showing up at the shipyard at least twice week.
"I can't quit this job because I will lose my severance pay after 30 years of work," he says. "I can't justify that."
About 20 percent of Greek workers are trapped in the same dilemma. Many, like Aivatzidis, hold on because they know finding another job at a time when the unemployment rate is 28 percent is virtually impossible. "
"As much of Europe spent the last month worrying about what might happen if Russia decided to shut the valve on its gas supply, Athens has apparently decided the time is right to push a new energy role. This week, Greece’s Energy Ministry launched an international tender for a pipeline project that would transport about 8 billion cubic meters of gas into the European market from offshore fields controlled by Cyprus and Israel. According to a Reuters report, the project would link Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field to Europe by way of Greece through the IGI-Poseidon pipeline, managed by Italy’s Edison and Greece’s state-backed utility, DEPA.
For Israel, the pipeline would provide the country’s first long-distant export option. Israel has recently announced a series of export agreements for its offshore efforts, 40 percent of which is allotted for sale outside of the country. However, so far, they have all been local, including sales to Jordan, Palestinian utilities and talks with both Egypt and Turkey. For Greece, a successful pipeline would help them carve out a long-sought energy role in the area.
Over the last three years, Athens has made a concerted effort to lay claim to the Eastern Mediterranean’s recent energy rush, both as a potential transport hub for Israeli and Cypriot gas reserves and as a producer itself. The latter role, which has included studies suggesting offshore reserves near Crete, has failed to catch fire beyond political rhetoric. Meanwhile, after this week, it appears the country’s transport aspirations may have some potential."
"Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' co-ruling New Democracy party and the main opposition Syriza party would both get 15.5 percent of the vote if EU elections due in May were held now, the poll conducted by Public Issue for the Efimerida ton Synakton newspaper showed.
To Potami (The River), launched by a well-known Greek TV journalist barely three weeks ago, was in third place with 7 percent, according to the poll, a surprisingly strong showing for a new movement.
More than 40 percent of those polled refused to say how they would vote or were undecided, but more than two thirds of 1,004 respondents said they would vote in the May elections."
"These rules are among the hundreds of restrictive business practices in Greece that a team from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development identified last year, as part of an 11-month investigation commissioned by the Greek government. In its report the OECD made 329 recommendations for rules that should be changed to open up competition and give a much-needed boost to the economy.
Quantifying the cost of these restrictions is a difficult task, but in 66 cases, the international experts did figure out a way to do so. Eliminating them would lead to a positive effect on the Greek economy of 5.2 billion euros, or just over $7 billion, they calculated. While that may not seem like a huge sum, in today’s Greece, every penny counts. Kostis Hatzidakis, the Greek minister for Development and Competitiveness, is promising action “very soon” to retire some of the most intrusive rules that he says are holding back his nation’s competitiveness.
That is easier said than done, and not just in Greece. In many European nations, a similar patchwork of rules limit competition, protect existing monopolies or otherwise restrict businesses for sometimes archaic reasons. In France, for example, there’s currently a battle raging between retailers wanting to open on Sundays and labor unions who have successfully filed court actions to stop them."
"...data from Eurostat found that population aging in Greece as well as in the rest of the EU countries continued incessantly during the last decade. The percentage of the elderly population in Greece increased significantly, from 16.7% to 19.4%, which is higher than the EU average (17.5% in 2011).
Examining the age structure of the Greek population, we see that the proportion of people aged over 65 years old exceeds 19% (nearly one in five), which places Greece among the three EU countries with the highest aging rates, along with Italy (20.3%) and Germany (20.6%). "
"Greece and representatives of the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had hoped to conclude the latest review of the country's reform progress under the terms of its international bailout by Monday, when euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels.
But the talks will not be over by then because the two sides are still at odds over a range of issues, mainly on structural measures to boost the economy's competitiveness and over Greek lenders' capital needs.
"The distance between us has narrowed but we will still have work to do next week," one Greek senior government official told reporters after a new round of talks with lenders."
Image appeared on the google.com websites December 2, 2013 to mark the birthday of famed Greek soprano opera singer Maria Callas.
Greece, said Artistotle, is geographically intermediate, between Europe, apparently incapable of civilisation, and south-west Asia, where where only the King of Persia was fully a free man; and the Mean, or medium, to him was the best. Modern geologists add that the Aegean basin is a slab of the earth's crust which has sunk and tipped, leaving only a rim (the Greek peninsula and Crete) and mountain tops (the other islands) above sea-level.
Greece can therefore support a population, on its small though fertile plains, only much smaller than that of the adjacent slab of Asia Minor; a fact which affects the whole of Greek history. Greater wealth must be found overseas, by trade of colonization; and when adjacent powers in Italy or Asia are strong, Greece is threatened. Persia attempted conquest; Rome, the Franks and Turkey achieved it.
On the other hand, Greece enjoys, with its variety of scenery, clear air and summer heat tempered by north winds, an intensely stimulating environment; and when free, three times it has produced great art: the bronze-age Minoan-Mycenaean, the Classical and the Byzantine; all completely different, all unique."
From The Living Past of Greece: A Time-traveller's tour of historic and prehistoric places, by A. R. and Mary Burn. Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1980. Quote from page 9.