ECONOMY

Support plan for small businesses

The Economy and Finance Ministry yesterday unveiled a 1.3-billion-euro support plan for small businesses in a bid to boost investment and create jobs as the economy appears to be slowing almost to a halt due to the crisis. Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said 1.05 billion euros, mostly funded by the European Union, will go toward subsidizing investment in the manufacturing, tourism, commerce and services sectors. An additional 250 million euros will be used to help other professions, including lawyers and doctors, to upgrade equipment or buildings. «We are enabling thousands of businesses to carry out investments, upgrade operations, maintain or create job positions and contribute to boosting the real economy,» the minister told reporters. A minimum of 17,000 businesses will benefit from the program that will allocate 80 percent of funds to regions outside the wider area of Athens. The package will be launched in September and run for 18 months, offering subsidies of up to 65 percent or 300,000 euros to small businesses. Details on programs available will be posted online Monday on espa.gr. Greece’s economic growth has been steadily slowing as deteriorating international economic conditions hurt two of its largest sectors, tourism and shipping. In the first quarter of the year, gross domestic product expansion slowed to an annual rate of 0.30 percent, the slowest since 1993, on falling investment and exports. However, data indicated yesterday that the downturn in the industrial sector may have bottomed out. Industrial turnover fell in March by 20 percent year-on-year versus a 25 percent decline in February, and a 30.4 percent drop in January. Industrial new orders in March also fell 27.3 percent on an annual basis but improved from February’s dip of 35.5 percent and a 36.9 percent retreat in January. [email protected]