By Lefteris Papadimas and Michele Kambas
ATHENS – Greece’s economy should grow by 4.5% next year after a stronger than expected 2021 rebound on a higher tourist intake, pent-up demand and a boost from state support measures, the government’s 2022 final budget projected on Friday.
Authorities expect the economy to grow by 6.9% this year, its third upwards revision in the past three months, and better than the 6.1% forecast in the draft budget submitted to parliament in October, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said.
Greek output shrank 9.0% in 2020 when a cascade of lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic stubbed out economic growth and battered the vital tourism sector.
Recent 2021 data showed the economy had recouped more than two-thirds of the lost GDP, all in a year where economic activity was already constrained because of coronavirus restrictions which applied for the first six months of the year, Staikouras said in a preface to the budget submitted to parliament.
It said public debt was expected to stand at 189.6% of gross domestic product next year, down from an estimated 197.1% in 2021, while its primary budget deficit was expected at 1.2% of GDP next year from 7.3% in 2021.
Greece required three international bailouts from 2010 to 2015 worth more than 260 billion euros to prevent bankruptcy. Reforms and privatisations are a key pillar of bailout-compliance adjustments.
The country expects to raise 2.2 billion euros in 2022 from the privatisation of ports, real estate assets and national motorways, the budget said.
The fiscal council, an independent body that evaluates macroeconomic projections, earlier said it adopted the government’s projections but also said there were risks for 2022.
These could arise from any resurgence of the pandemic which could require new measures to support the economy, it said, adding: “Prolonged inflationary pressures – especially in energy – might require compensatory measures.”
Greece joined several other European countries on Thursday in imposing more restrictions on those not vaccinated against COVID-19 following a surge in infections in recent weeks.
The number of new daily infections hit record highs in Greece this month, putting pressure on an already struggling health care system and forcing the government to order private sector doctors in five regions in northern Greece to assist public hospitals.
The state budget will be voted on before the year end.