A little over one in six, or 17%, of Greece’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have returned to their pre-pandemic sales levels and another 50% expect to do so within two years, a National Bank of Greece survey has found.
The survey shows clearly that the support measures decided by the government in the face of the coronavirus pandemic have provided, at least thus far, a strong safety net and prevented many closures. Still, about a third of SMEs estimate it will take at least three years to recover, with 41% of small enterprises saying so.
NBG’s survey found that 52% of SMEs considered government aid aimed at helping them maintain liquidity satisfactory, while another 15% responded that it was sufficient. But 17% of SMEs said they were insufficiently helped when they asked for state support.
Altogether, state support measures helped 84% of Greek SMEs to a varying degree; similar surveys in member-countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed an average of 80% of SMEs benefited from some form of aid.
The enterprises’ preferred way of support differs according to their size; the smaller ones would rather have a tax rebate while the larger ones said they’d prefer loans on favorable terms.
Another measure of the effectiveness of state support was that the number of SMEs that said they had serious liquidity issues (15%) did not differ significantly from pre-pandemic days and was lower than during Greece’s protracted financial crisis in the early to mid-2010s.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic when the economy shrank 8.2%, there were 23% fewer company shutdowns than during the previous year.
Now, 67% of SMEs say they no longer need government aid to operate efficiently: They account for 80% of the sector’s added value.
“Under these conditions, the prospect for SMEs’ growth post-pandemic are better, since they will not deviate significantly from their long-term business plans and will be able to take advantage of the next day’s opportunities,” the survey’s authors say.
On the negative side, the survey revealed a significant lack of information about the availability of EU funds. Only one in seven SMEs (14%) said they are well-informed of the Greek recovery plan’s priorities.