A leading driver of the economy, Greece’s shipping sector will be boosting state coffers by more than 75 million euros a year after the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) agreed on Wednesday, to volunteer payments for an indefinite period of time.
Referring to the voluntary endowment, which is equivalent to a 10 percent levy on dividends, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the deal was “significant” and would play a decisive role in the country’s recovery, adding that the shipowners had no obligation to do so.
“It demonstrates that there is a sense of collective responsibility toward our efforts to exit the crisis,” Tsipras said, adding that “we must all realize that emerging from the crisis means bigger business opportunities”.
It should be noted that Greek shipowners are the strongest force in the global shipping industry, accounting for 14 percent of the 2018 Top 100 spots on Lloyd’s List and demonstrating the sector’s improving performance and importance. Last year, 15 Greeks were among the world’s leading shipowners with Greece and China in the lead as countries with the most influential people in shipping, according to Lloyd’s List.
On his part, UGS President Theodoros Veniamis said the deal marks the continuation of “the effort we made along with the government to voluntarily aid the national economy”.
Veniamis added that nearly 96 percent of the country’s shipowners endorsed the agreement, “which demonstrates that the shipping sector is always present in the government’s efforts for a better future”.
Shipping together with tourism have evolved into the backbone of the Greek economy.
Referring to the news, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, was quick to point out that “the recently introduced stayover tax alone, one of the many taxes burdening thousands of small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, has generated 140 million euros” for the state.
Add to that, Retsos said, VAT, real estate and a series of other levies, and “one can only wonder how much we really want tourism to be a key growth driver for the country’s recovery”.
Retsos expressed his dismay at rewarding other sectors for their “voluntary” contribution while failing to do so for tourism, which has been bearing the brunt of new taxes year after year.
It should be noted that Greek governments have been granting generous tax allowances to shipowners, who have since 2014 made voluntary contributions to the state. At the same time, they too have repeatedly warned that more taxes will force them to relocate abroad.