Exports rise, but are hurt by weak EU

Despite views to the contrary, Greek exports have been growing fast, although not fast enough, a study published in the National Bank’s latest monthly Bulletin of Economic Analysis shows. During the past decade, the study says, exports of goods and services rose significantly. However, imports rose even higher. As a result, the average annual contribution of exports to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.1 percent in the period 1990-2001. However, imports accounted for an average of 1.6 percent of GDP during the same period, thus establishing a permanent trade deficit. One of the factors that hurt the further growth of exports was the drachma’s appreciation (before Greece joined the eurozone in 2001, that is). The appreciation, calculated at a total of 7 percent for the period 1990-2001 was necessary in order to stem inflationary pressure, especially in the two years prior to Greece’s entry into the eurozone. According to the National Bank’s researchers, as a percentage of GDP, exports rose about 10 percent during the past 15 years, implying a serious effort to improve productivity, given the negative impact of currency appreciation. This rise in productivity, according to the Bulletin, was «the result of improved quality and better geographical distribution» of exports, and reflects a significant rise in exports to the Balkans and central European markets. Another important comment made by the study concerns the income elasticity of exports. The income elasticity index was at an average of 1.5 in 1994-2001, compared to an average of 0.8 in 1985-93. This elasticity is comparable to those of other eurozone countries and reflects, the study says, «the increasing quality of Greek exports.» The other side of the coin is that Greek exports are now more vulnerable to fluctuations in international markets. Thus, according to the index, a percentage point decrease of GDP in EU countries will lead to a reduction of Greek exports by 1.5 percent, which, in turn, will reduce the Greek GDP by 0.4 percent. It is obvious, then, that the Greek economy is suffering from the EU’s current slowdown, which stands at not one, but two percentage points.