In an attempt to keep the economy afloat in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, the Greek government announced on Monday, additional support measures for some 800,000 businesses, 1.7 million private-sector employees and 700,000 self-employed and small business owners.
“We are implementing policies to keep the economy alive,” said Finance Minister Christos Staikouras of the March-April aid package amounting to 6.8 billion euros – or 3.5 percent of GDP – and including a 800-euro benefit for 1.7 million private-sector employees (81 percent of the impacted private-sector workforce) that have been suspended from their employment contracts and a freeze on their value added tax and debt payments to the state for four months.
Staikouras added that the aid is meant to buffer some 800,000 affected businesses on the condition that there are no layoffs. He also noted that VAT and tax debt payments of businesses had been suspended for April. However, if payments are made on time, there will be a 25 percent discount.
The measures also foresee the extension of financial aid for some 700,000 self-employed and small business owners.
Analysts expect growth to contract by 3 percent in 2020 due the Covid-19 crisis, which comes shortly after Greece began to recover from a decade-long debt crisis.
“The damage to the economy will be great, but temporary,” said Staikouras, stressing the need for calm and realism towards the implementation of “a coherent plan that relieves employees and employers”.
Staikouras reiterated that the annual Easter benefit will be paid by all businesses in full to all employees.
The minister went on to add that a supplementary budget is in place to address the coronavirus fallout earmarking 5.1 billion euros in additional spending for March and April.
On his part, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the government will provide 1 billion euros in guarantees for loans to struggling businesses and would bear the interest costs of all up-to-date business loans for April, May and June – a measure which may be extended for an additional two months.
Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Yiannis Retsos, representing the country’s tourism businesses which are among the hardest hit by Covid-19, welcomed the measures noting via his twitter account that they complete the first round of protections for businesses and employees. “It is now important to tackle the pandemic. We are working to rebuild the economy, to reconstruct society. Tourism should be the protagonist again,” he said.