Athens Digest 13.03.2019

• IMF: Greece improving but still at risk

• It’s time plan for long-term improvements, industry body says

• Birth Rate in the Red

# The International Monetary Fund has warned that Greece’s recovery could be undermined by its dual enduring weaknesses of high national debt and soured loans. In a 63-page report, the fund said despite Greece’s “accelerating and broadening” recovery, its economy was vulnerable to the global slowdown and the country’s “still-weak payment culture.” Those risks, it said, could potentially threaten bailout debt repayment in the medium term. A recent series of court rulings against bailout-era measures cost the state EUR 9.5 billion in payments, the report said. It urged Greek policymakers to continue the effort to boost competitiveness through a growth focused initiatives and additional tax reform and highlighted that there are risks from election-year pressures on policies, such as to increase wage.

# A Greek industry body is urging the government to follow up on the bailout exit with broader reforms including an overhaul of parts of the public education system. In its monthly financial bulletin, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises noted that Greece successfully tapped the markets with recent 5- and 10-year bond issues but that the recovery remained underwhelming, plagued by reform implementation delays. And despite being beyond the six-month mark since the end of the third bailout, there was still little progress on major long-term improvements including a comprehensive plan to fight corruption, linking the education system to market needs and university research, and efforts to address weakness in the country’s manufacturing base.

# The fertility rate in the European Union has continued to drop below the replacement rate, with Greece falling behind the EU average, according to 2017 data released by Eurostat. EU-wide, the fertility rate in 2017 was 1.59 births per woman, dropping from 1.60 the previous year and 1.62 in 2010. The replacement level is generally recognized as 2.1 live births per woman. The fertility rate in Greece in 2017 was 1.35 _ among the lowest in the EU and followed by Italy, Cyprus, Spain, and Malta.

On our Radar: Greece takes step closer to cremation
Despite objection from the Greek Orthodox Church, the government has taken a step closer to making cremation a viable option for bereaved Greek families. The construction of a crematorium was included in a revised development plan for Athens’ Elaionas area. At present, Greeks seeking to cremate relatives frequently use crematoria in neighbouring Bulgaria. Cremation was legalised in Greece in 2006. But the first crematoria in Greece are only expected to start operating before the end of this year in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Patras.