By Sotiris Nikas
The economy contracted just 3.7 percent in 2013, beating expectations, as the last quarter of the year showed gross domestic product was only 2.6 percent down from the last quarter of 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures showed on Friday.
Finance Ministry officials argue that this development signals the economy is gradually returning to growth, although it is clear there is still quite a way to go before the six-year recession can truly be said to have ended. The economy shrank a massive 25 percent during that period.
The original target for the 2013 contraction had been 4.2 percent, which was later revised to 4 percent.
“This is the first time such a thing has happened since the start of the fiscal adjustment program,” a Finance Ministry statement said on Friday, noting that “this development confirms the positive signals that various short-term qualitative and quantitative indices had pointed to.” It added that this also “illustrates that the Greek economy is gradually emerging from the deep recession of recent years, while the groundwork is laid, as forecast, for a return to growth within 2014.”
In fixed prices, GDP amounted to 39.6 billion euros in the last quarter of 2013 against 40.7 billion euros in the same period in 2012 and 43.5 billion in the third quarter of 2013.
The recession’s gradual slowdown on an annual basis is attributed mostly to the improvement seen in the sectors of tourism, retail commerce and construction. GDP reached 181.7 billion euros in total. The 39.6 billion euros of the October-December period of 2013 constitutes the lowest quarterly output since the last quarter of 2000.
Although the analytical data on the course of the economy in the last quarter of 2013 will be announced on March 11, Finance Ministry officials do not expect any significant changes in the figures announced. They base their optimism on the favorable readings of such indices as retail sales and the volume of construction activity, which rebounded in November, the increase in industrial output in December and in car sales last month, and the swing toward growth of the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) in January for the first time since August 2009.