Record spending by tourists helped the Greek government post a current account surplus last year.
That is to say more money came into the country than went out – to the tune of 1.24 billion euros.
It is the first time that has happened since the country’s central bank started keeping records in 1948.
Income from tourism – Greece’s biggest foreign currency earner – rose 15 percent and brought in a record 12 billion euros, while exports rose and imports shrank.
The milestone is little consolation though to Greece’s legions of unemployed. In November 2013 the total reached a record high 28 percent of the workforce from the austerity-fuelled recession that has shrunk the economy by nearly a quarter in four years.
Craig Erlam, market analyst with Alpari, cautioned there is a long way to go yet: “I think we’re going to be looking at a much longer period of pain for Greece. The rate of the decline in unemployment is still going to be extremely slow, especially compared to the rate that it increased over the last couple of years. So while it’s a positive thing that we are seeing in Greece – and if you compare it to where we were say two years ago it is a hugely positive thing – it’s such a long road ahead for Greece and a lot more pain to come.”
The Greek government expects the economy to grow by 0.6 percent in 2014 after contracting for the past six years.
The tourism industry has benefited from a broader mix of visitors, including those staying longer and spending more on average.
The euronews business reporter in Athens, Symela Touchtidou, concluded: “Tourism remains the force driving the engine of the Greek economy. It’s expected 2014 will be an even better year, with an estimated 18 million tourists visiting the country. Still, analysts say that agreed reforms must be carried out, for the Greek recovery to be sustainable.”
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