ECONOMY

Shipping, tourism revenues shrink

Tourism and shipping revenues posted a dramatic decline in the first quarter of the year, according to official figures. Serving to confirm fears that the international financial crisis has seriously hurt the two leading industries in Greece and that the country’s growth rate is indeed likely to turn negative, revenues from shipping dropped by 23.9 percent and from tourism by 18.2 percent on an annual basis, Bank of Greece data revealed yesterday. The decline in Q1 revenues points toward an even more difficult period to come for tourism in particular, which will have a huge impact on gross domestic product, to which tourism contributes 7.8 percent. At the same time, however, the significant decline in oil prices on a yearly basis has led to a 22.2 percent reduction in the current account deficit relative to the first quarter of 2008, dropping to 7.3 billion euros this year from 9.4 billion euros in 2008. Fuel imports registered a sharp reduction of 35.3 percent year-on-year to reach just 2.5 billion euros, down from 3.9 billion in 2008. Receipts from ships fell by 43.9 percent, while fuel exports also declined by 29.4 percent. The inflow of funds from foreign investment in the January-March period reached 341 million euros, against a total outflow of 253 million euros. The European Commission and other international organizations have long predicted a recession in Greek tourism and the economy in general. Brussels foresees a contraction of 0.9 percent for Greek GDP in 2009, while the International Monetary Fund expects GDP to shrink by about 1 percent. The Bank of Greece estimates zero growth, which is likely to turn negative in some quarters of the current year. The only positive forecast has been from the Economy and Finance Ministry, which has predicted a growth rate of 1.1 percent, though this figure too is likely to be revised downward next month to about 0.5 percent.