Saturday, July 26, 2014

Greece’s bail-out: Still tightly monitored

July 26, 2014

Tourists dived for cover beneath restaurant tables as shooting broke out in Monastiraki, a crowded neighbourhood in Athens, on July 16th. Greek anti-terrorist police had trailed Nikos Maziotis, one of the country’s most wanted fugitives, to a shop selling camping equipment. As he fled, Mr Maziotis opened fire with a handgun. He was arrested after being shot in the shoulder by a police officer.

Appearing before an investigating judge, Mr Maziotis said his job was “being a revolutionary”. He is accused of belonging to Revolutionary Struggle, a leftist extremist group that claimed responsibility for staging a rocket attack against the American embassy in Athens in 2007 and for several car-bomb explosions. The most recent, outside the IMF office in Athens in April, came at a time when Greece took another step towards recovery, issuing its first sovereign bond since 2010.

Athens is enjoying its best year for tourism since it staged the summer Olympics in 2004. Fortunately, the shoot-out in Monastiraki was quickly over. “If there had been serious casualties, bookings would have been cancelled across the board. It goes to show how fragile the tourist industry is,” says Panos Asimacopoulos, a travel agent in Athens.

The Greek recovery is similarly frail. After a record 24 quarters of negative growth, the economy is forecast to grow by almost 1% this year. About 20,000 new jobs will be added over the summer, according to the National Bank of Greece, reversing six years of declining employment.

Business-confidence indicators are at a six-year high and consumers are again flocking to Athens’s shopping malls. The finance ministry says Greece is on track to hit this year’s target of a budget surplus, before interest payments, of 1.5% of GDP.


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