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For each euro produced Greece borrows 30 euro cents

14 October 2010 / 09:10:07  GRReporter
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For each euro produced Greece is forced to borrow 30 cents, its competitiveness takes one of the last places among the European countries and its strongest sector – the shipping industry – has only 0.5% share in international trade. The data were presented by Professor Andreas Meraklis, who teaches at the University of Piraeus. He spoke at the 12th Annual Shipping Forum in Athens and the main topic of his presentation was how the Greek economic crisis threatens the shipping industry in the country.
Andreas Meraklis made an overview of the macroeconomic conditions in the country comparing some of the macroeconomic data of Greece and Spain. "If we compare the Greek with Spanish foreign debt it seems that Greece is doing well at first glance," said the professor. The external debt of Spain is about € 800 billion while the Greek is slightly more than € 400 billion. However, the picture changes when the debt to GDP ratio reaches 130% in Greece and in Spain the figure is 60% of GDP, or twice as high in favour of Spain. In other words, for every euro produced Greece not only gains no profit but it is forced to borrow one third of the investment. Spain, on the other hand, saves 50 cents for every euro of production.

"When you produce and your external debt increases it means that nobody is demanding and buying your products," concluded Andreas Meraklis. This came naturally to confirm and the next conclusion - low competitiveness. According to a study the University of Piraeus held among 57 nations, Greece ranks 52nd in competitiveness. The Mediterranean country takes the last places in international investors’ preferences. High taxes, heavy administration, expensive labour and endless social unrest place Greece 109th as for how easy it is to do business in the country. Singapore ranks first in this list and the neighbouring Macedonia and Albania hold respectively 30th and 82nd place. The professor said that the figures speak for themselves about the state of the Greek economy and the business climate in the country.

To overcome the difficulties state leaders must not only carry out internal reforms, but have to focus on the development of powerful sectors that will help the economy move forward. Here comes the role of the shipping industry that can provide great opportunities for development. "The time has come to realize that the shipbuilding industry is our national product," said the professor. According to the survey, the main players in the shipping business are five nations that hold 54% of maritime trade in the world. Norway and Japan take the first places, and although Greece is in the top five its real influence is not so great.

Regardless of all the factors listed, Professor Andreas Meraklis concluded that the unfavourable economic environment, however, does not affect the shipping industry in the country. One of the reasons is that firstly it is not dependent on state funding. The industry develops entirely in the private sector and no state bank supports the shipping companies in the country so that the reduction in liquidity will not lead to problems with funding. Greece does not provide any major benefits for the companies in the sector, nor has it key docks, which are crucial to world trade, or dry docks for repair, construction and maintenance of ships. Even if serious economic problems threaten the state, the only thing that could jeopardize the country is the credit risk associated with the Greek banks in the event of bankruptcy. Anyway, according to George Ksiradakis, XRTC Business Consultants CEO, foreign banks have a larger share in the the Greek fleet funding than their Greek counterparts, as 87% of foreign banks have been supporting the shipping industry in the country more than 30 years.

The representatives of Greek shipping companies are more concerned about the international economic situation. "It was very disturbing what happened in late 2008 and throughout 2009 than the state of the Greek economy at the moment," said the CEO of the International Registers Inc. / Marshall Islands Registry. He stressed that the companies operating in the country still face problems with the administration, but in terms of the economic aspect of the issue he said that the Greek financial crisis does not affect the shipping business. According to him, the crisis gives the government a good chance to improve the offered services.

The good news for the shipping companies is that the Greek crisis may even make them profit. On the one hand, the difficult economic conditions enable them to reduce costs while the free areas are good opportunity for new investments in real estate - lower rents and cheaper purchases of properties that could shelter the business or could be used as investment. The second option the entrepreneurs can take advantage of is to find cheaper (lower wages) qualified labour because of high unemployment. "The shipping business is a national product and the Greek vessels are our economic ambassadors that are part of the global markets. The time has come to realize that this industry may be our only hope," concluded his speech the Greek Professor Andreas Meraklis.


Tags: EconomyMarketsCompaniesShipping industryAndreas Meraklis
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