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More misery ahead for Greeks as economy set to shrink again
November 10, 2015 / 12:13 PM / 2 years ago

More misery ahead for Greeks as economy set to shrink again

A Greek national flag flutters atop the parliament building in Athens, Greece, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis -

LONDON (Reuters) - Any Greeks hoping their days of economic pain are over following the latest bailout agreement with international lenders should look to the dire projections from Europe’s three main institutional forecasters for a reality check.

The European Commission, the OECD and the EBRD all say Greece is heading into recession again this year and next, sinking back into the mire after last year’s positive reading ended a six-year depression.

The light at the end of the tunnel, all three say, may be some growth returning during next year - but it is highly dependent on economic and banking reform.

There will be arguments about why Greece remains in such a state - from accusations in Athens that lender-imposed austerity has crushed the life out of the economy to gripes from Brussels that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftists wasted what improvements had been achieved.

The two sides are again at loggerheads - albeit possibly temporarily - over reforms and bailout cash, with the added complexity that Tsipras does not want to see indebted Greeks lose their homes while the country is providing food and housing for thousands of asylum-seekers.

But there is no disagreement among the forecasters about the direction the Greek economic is heading.

Both the Commission and the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) see a 1.4 percent contraction this year, while the EBRD (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) sees 1.5 percent.

This is particularly severe given the first half of the year saw growth of 1 percent, put down to Greeks running out to buy durable goods ahead of a threatened “Grexit” from the euro zone.

PAIN AND PLEASURE

There is more divergence among the forecasters about next year. The Commission and OECD see a contraction of 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

The Commission reckons much of this will be carry-over effects from this year’s political and economic turmoil, which included a failure to complete the previous bailout program, a referendum on austerity, a bitter fight with lenders, and the introduction of capital controls, many of which remain.

The EBRD, however, expects a decline of 2.4 percent. Its mere involvement is significant, given that it only added Greece to its bailiwick of mainly poor, emerging economies this year.

If there is any good news for Greece it is that all three forecasters see growth returning in 2016.

The EBRD offers no 2017 projection but says growth may start again in next year’s second quarter, while the Commission predicts 2.7 percent and the OECD 2.1 percent in 2017.

The rub is that all projections are predicated on Athens taking the reform steps the government has committed to but railed against in the past.

“Growth is likely to return (on a quarter-on-quarter basis) perhaps by the second quarter of the year provided investment picks up and reforms are implemented,” the EBRD said.

editing by John Stonestreet

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