Greece’s merchant marine industry is undoubtedly one of most important pillars of the economy. In the last few years, starting from 2002, the foreign currency imported by Greek shipping has continued to rise, exceeding 14 billion euros in 2006. «The course of shipping currency inflows also reveals the positive course of our merchant marine. Had the state created a stable and clear institutional framework for the entry of capital for investment in the national economy, then much more money could flow into the country,» shipping sources told Kathimerini. Shipping experts estimate that in 2007 currency imports will increase further, owing to the measures for the strengthening of the competitiveness of the Greek flag, taken recently by the Merchant Marine Ministry. In January 2007, currency imports from shipping came to 1,216.7 million euros, from 1,154.3 million euros in January 2006, recording an annual rise of 62.4 million euros. According to Bank of Greece data, the foreign currency imported by shipping over the whole of 2006 came to 14,324.7 million euros, against 13,871.4 million euros in 2005, an increase of 453.3 million euros or 3.2 percent year-on-year. The year before, the annual increase had come to 564.4 million euros, or 4.2 percent, compared with 2004. The steady rising course of shipping currency inflows, according to data by the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping (NEE), began in 2000, when $7,914.2 million (5,950.5 million euros) came into the country. The following year, currency imports from shipping came to $8,165.7 million (6,139.6 million euros), in 2002 it reached $11,127.3 million (8,366.4 million euros) and in 2003 it rose to $12,493.4 million (9,393.5 million euros). Sources suggested to Kathimerini that «the Greek merchant marine contributes to the national economy more than 7 percent of the gross national product and covers 38 percent of the current account balance, while the total revenues from shipping represent over 5 percent of the net revenues of the state budget.» Bank of Greece data show that in August 2006 foreign currency inflows from shipping reached 1,304.6 million euros, from 1,212 million euros in August 2005. In November 2006 they reached -1,282.3 million, up from -1,069.8 million in November 2005, but in December 2006 they fell to -1,130.5 million, from -1,279.6 million in December 2005.