Greek exports ended the first quarter of the year down from the same period in 2015, according to data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) and the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE). If that trend continues this year it will deprive the economy of one of its few redeeming features.
Exporting companies’ problems are exacerbated by the state’s failure to meet its obligations, as pending tax rebates are back up to 1 billion euros and delays in payment can reach as long as three-and-a-half years. It is no coincidence that in its spring forecasts the European Commission downwardly revised Greece’s estimated revenues from the export of goods and services. It now only expects a marginal 0.5 percent year-on-year rise in exports, against a previous forecast for a 1.9 percent rise.
The Greek International Business Association revealed that at the same time the Finance Ministry has withdrawn the exemption of companies producing exported goods from paying value-added tax on electricity, thereby increasing their production costs further.
Including fuel products, exports amounted to 5.72 billion euros in the first quarter of the year, against 6.28 billion in the January-March 2015 period. This constitutes an 8.9 percent annual decline. Without fuel products, exports also recorded a decline, albeit marginal, amounting to 0.2 percent.
The picture created in Q1 this year is diametrically opposite to the same period in 2015, when the newly elected SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government had created high expectations, leading to 14 percent growth in exports.
In March alone, exports including fuel products declined 11.4 percent year-on-year to come to 2.09 billion euros. Fuel products excluded, exports posted a marginal fall of 0.3 percent.
The Greek recession is reflected in imports: In March they amounted to 3.63 billion euros, against 4.37 billion in March 2015 – i.e. an annual contraction of 17 percent. That monthly sum of imports constitutes the smallest recorded since 2013.