NEWS

EU sees strong growth in Greece

The Greek economy will continue to grow considerably faster than the European Union average over the next two years, but unemployment figures will also remain high, according to a leaked European Commission report. The document, which is expected to be made public next week, predicts that the Greek economy will follow those of other EU members with lower growth rates in 2002 before recovering in 2003. The growth rate is expected to end this year at 4.1 percent of GDP, to dip to 3.5 percent in 2002 before taking an upturn in 2003, when it is forecast to reach 4.2 percent. By comparison, the anticipated eurozone average growth for this year is only 1.5 percent. Inflation is expected to remain under control, closing at 3.1 percent this year. In 2002, it should reach 3 percent and end in 2003 at 2.8 percent. The national debt is also forecast to keep falling, coming down from 99.8 percent of GDP this year to 98.5 percent in 2002 and 95.1 percent in 2003. Debt reduction is one of the Commission’s long-standing demands from Athens. According to National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, it is a top government priority. The Commission also forecasts a zero general government deficit for this year, with expected surpluses of 0.3 percent of GDP next year and 0.8 percent in 2003. Unemployment, however, is expected to come down at a slower rate. Joblessness among the economically active population is projected to close at 10.6 percent this year, 10.1 percent in 2002 and 9.6 percent in 2003.