FINANCE

Fresh aid for hurting businesses

Finance Ministry to expand furlough scheme and examine additional financial measures

fresh-aid-for-hurting-businesses

The government may expand the temporary suspension of work contracts to more sectors than those already announced in response to the surge of the pandemic, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told Skai Radio on Friday. Sources say the most likely domains to follow in the furlough scheme are those of food service and culture.

No decisions have been made yet in that respect, as the ministry is still examining the details of electronic transactions in order to establish whether any new measures are required, and to what extent.

The latest data from online transactions, in fact, show a significant increase last month, of 26.5% compared to 2019 (Greece was in partial lockdown in December 2020), with restaurants in particular posting a 33.6% jump. It is true that online payments account for an ever-bigger share of turnover, but ministry sources point out that the rise recorded reveals that turnover in December did not fare so badly after all.

Remarkably, electronic transactions at supermarkets recorded a 35% increase in December compared to two years earlier.

Throughout 2021, according to figures Staikouras posted on his Twitter account, online transactions reached 52 billion euros (having come up to €47.4 billion in January-November). That compares to €44.8 billion in 2020, €40.6 billion in 2019 and €37.3 billion in 2018. The course has been clearly upward, but 2021 has recorded a jump.

Ministry officials acknowledge that there may have been a slump in food service turnover in the days after Christmas, which may not have been reflected so much on the December online payment data. This is why they are waiting to determine what the real situation is before deciding whether and how the sector ought to receive state support.

Besides the furlough scheme, the government is examining another form of financial support for enterprises hurt by the latest restrictions, though not via the reduction of rents. Staikouras did not rule out a further cut to dues from cheap state loans under the “Deposit To Be Returned” scheme.