ECONOMY

Key indicators for 2006 above expectations

The government has reason to rejoice over the performance of key indicators of the Greek economy in 2006. According to reports, the National Statistics Service (NSS) will soon announce figures more favorable than the initial projections on all three fronts of unemployment, inflation and growth. December inflation is provisionally estimated at 2.9 percent, year-on-year, while the average for the year as a whole is seen at 3.2 percent, against an initial projection of 3.4 percent. The NSS estimates January inflation at 2.9 percent. The economy’s growth rate for 2006 is seen at 4.1 percent, against an initial government projection of 3.8 percent. Investment and exports, which are expected to have risen by 9 percent and 11 percent respectively, were the strongest contributors to growth. By the end of December, the Development Ministry had approved 2,328 investment plans, with budgets totaling -3.48 billion and estimated to create more than 10,300 jobs. A key parameter regarding the absolute level of the country’s gross domestic product will be the expected approval by Eurostat of Greece’s proposal to revise it upward by 25 percent, due a number of factors hitherto unaccounted for. Sources said approval should be announced by the end of March. The initial projection of the unemployment figure for 2006 at 9.2 percent is said to be revised to less than 9 percent. Ministers expect joblessness to fall to 8 percent this year – a considerable improvement from the 11.8 percent unemployment when the government took office in March 2004. Also, employment is now estimated to have risen to more than 60 percent of the population of an employable age, against 57.3 percent three years ago. The final figures for 2006 will be available in March and will be submitted to the European Commission, which will issue its spring forecast for the year, also taking into account budget data, in May. That month is seen as marking the commencement of the procedure for Greece’s exit from the regime of fiscal supervision. According to Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, the procedure will be completed either in July or October, at the latest.