Economy up 4 pct in 2002

The Greek economy expanded 4 percent last year, up from a targeted 3.8 percent, as strong investment spending and robust domestic demand outweighed weak exports. It was the third consecutive year of strong growth for Greece, a flash estimate released by the National Statistics Service yesterday showed. Gross domestic product grew by 4.1 percent in 2001 and by 4.2 percent in 2000. The eurozone is estimated to have grown by a subpar 1 percent last year. «Growth last year was higher than expected as investments came out better than projected,» said Christos Avramides, economist at Proton Investment Bank. Investments were the engine of growth last year, rising 7.4 percent from 6.9 percent the previous year. Final consumption also provided a strong boost, increasing by 3.1 percent from 2.7 percent in 2001. Exports continued to slide, falling by 0.5 percent, as Greece’s major trading partners found themselves mired in a recession and cut back on purchases. Imports edged up by 0.5 percent. Economic growth in the final quarter of 2002 slowed to 3.5 percent, the lowest for the year, underlining the negative impact of the prevailing slew of uncertainties. Avramides said the government’s target of 3.8 percent growth this year is «realistic,» with investments fueling national output. «However, it will depend on the price of oil and a war in Iraq and the duration of the crisis,» he said. The European Central Bank is forecasting 2-2.5 percent growth for the eurozone. Crude oil futures yesterday soared to a 29-month high as war fears mounted. Prices have increased by 29 percent over the past two months. News yesterday that Iraq might be found to possess missiles in violation of UN arms restrictions raised the level of tension.

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