ECONOMY

The productive vacuum

Statistics tell half-truths; Greece’s economy has the highest growth rate in the European Union, but it is based on public works and the huge inflows of Community funds. Demand appears strong but is mainly financed through mortgages. The economy is strong but idle factory capacity is rising. The government has recently taken great pains to use such deception, as it sees the supposedly strong cards that would reverse the negative climate in public opinion unable to do the trick. Ultimately, the state of the real economy and enterprises is more important than statistics. Only thus is it possible to arrive at a picture nearer to reality, far from the dressing-up that is copiously employed at every opportunity. And the real picture is much less pretty. The Bank of Greece’s interim report on monetary policy last month put it rather discreetly: There is a «productive vacuum» in the economy – perhaps even more important than the public deficit, also noted in reports of the European Commission, the OECD and the International Monetary Fund. This vacuum, which has appeared in the last three years, has grown larger in 2003. According to the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), at the end of September, Greek factory capacity utilization was down to 76.7 percent from 77.4 percent last year. Also, the number of months of guaranteed production ahead fell from 5.6 to 5.2 in the same month, year-on-year. It is no surprise, then, that unemployment remains high and the economy’s overall productivity level is struggling. Obviously, firms are operating under unfavorable conditions.