Shipping and EU transfers lower 9-month C/A deficit

Shipping, European Union investment subsidies and a slight rise in exports accounted for a significant improvement in Greece’s current account deficit in the nine months to September, which declined 40.83 percent to 2.93 billion euros from 5.01 billion in the respective 2003 period. According to Bank of Greece data, foreign currency receipts from shipping were 42.2 percent higher at 9.85 billion euros, while EU receipts were up 25.04 percent, year-on-year, after many months of lackluster performance. The improving trend was indicated by a current account surplus in September 2004, which contrasted with a deficit in the corresponding month of the previous two years. The overall positive developments in the nine months accounted for a substantial rise in the services surplus and, secondarily, an increase in the transfers surplus, which, taken together with a small decrease in the income account deficit, more than offset a strong rise in the trade deficit. Exports increased 12.81 percent and imports, which command a much larger volume, also rose 12.66 percent. The trade deficit grew by 2.1 billion euros relative to the same period of 2003. Specifically, a 2.6-billion-euro (or 12.6 percent) increase in the non-oil import bill more than offset a 964-million-euro (or 13.5 percent) rise in non-oil export receipts, whereas the net oil import bill increased by 450 million euros. The services surplus grew by 3.3 billion euros, mainly owing to the great rise (of 2.2 billion) in net transport receipts, mainly from shipping. Finally, the 780-million-euro year-on-year growth of the transfers surplus is almost exclusively accounted for by a 1.03-billion-euro increase in general government receipts (mainly transfers from the EU), which far exceeded the 207-million-euro rise in general government payments (mainly to the EU). In the January-September period, non-residents’ direct investment in Greece reached 1.01 billion, while residents’ direct investment abroad came to 386 million euros, resulting in a net inflow of 626 million in direct investment funds. Over the same period, a substantial net inflow of 11.16 billion was recorded in the portfolio investment category, mainly reflecting inflows of non-residents’ funds toward the purchase of Greek government bonds.