ECONOMY

Debt over budget forecast

Public debt reached 239.6 billion euros, or 104.5 percent of gross domestic product, last year, according to the General Accounting Office. The debt exceeded the budget’s estimate by 1 billion euros, mostly due to shifts in revenues and expenditures. Data showed that 84.5 percent of the debt is in bonds and 99.2 percent in euros, which means that servicing it does not benefit from the decline of the dollar. The average maturity of state bonds grew to 13.25 years from 10.47 years in 2006, as 52.2 percent of last year’s borrowing had a maturity of more than 10 years and 21.3 percent of more than 20 years. Statistical data have also begun to reveal the impact from the three-month-long industrial action by port employees in Piraeus and Thessaloniki, which has contributed to the (probably temporary) reduction of the trade deficit. National Statistics Service (NSS) data show that over the first two months of the year, the deficit in the trade balance contracted by 7.1 percent, compared with the same period in 2007, as imports fell by 58 percent. Exports also witnessed a decline, but by just 3 percent. NSS officials believe that drop in the deficit is exclusively due to the port strike that affected mostly imports of seasonal goods. Importers have sought out other European ports through which to bring in their products, while there may also be a delay in the declaration of all imports. Indications show that the trade deficit will increase this year, given that there has been no major change in the competitiveness of the Greek economy, to say nothing about the negative international sentiment.