Economic slowdown hits exports

The global economic slowdown along with a stronger euro have hurt Greek exports in the first four months of the year but a turnaround is expected in May, National Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. Export growth has underpinned Greece’s solid economic expansion rates in recent years as the country benefited from trading with its fast-growing neighbors. Export revenues rose to 9.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007 from 8.4 percent in 2004. «After a period of impressive export growth in previous years, exports dipped 4.6 percent in the first four months of 2008 in comparison with last year,» Alogoskoufis told the National Exports Council. «Estimates for May show a rise of more than 21 percent but the difficulties that exist are clear,» he added. The Finance Ministry recently revised lower its annual GDP growth forecast for 2008 to 3.6 percent, from 4 percent, with government sources indicating that another downward revision will take place in September. Alogoskoufis also blamed striking workers at the country’s two main ports in Piraeus and Thessaloniki for harming export growth. «We continue to have problems with the operation of ports. Despite… efforts to make Greece the gateway to the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeastern Europe and the Balkans, we have vested interests which create obstacles to the smooth operation of our ports.» Cargo-handling operations at Greece’s main port, Piraeus, ground to a halt yesterday as dockworkers began a two-day strike in support of financial demands and government plans to privatize the main container terminal. The workers are protesting the planned privatization of cargo-handling operations at the busy port, which are expected to be taken over by China’s Cosco Group. [email protected]