Athens Digest 19.04.2019

• IOBE think tank sounds new recession warning

• New poll sees strong lead for Conservatives

• Swiss-franc borrowers lose key court battle

• Labour Ministry data: Most new jobs using flexible contracts

• Hotel occupancy slips in Athens

# A leading think tank has warned that Greece’s recovery could be shot down before takeoff by persistently low investment levels and high unemployment. The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, IOBE, in a quarterly report on the Greek economy, forecast that growth in 2019 would not exceed 2 percent, echoing a similar slowdown warning recently issued by the Bank of Greece. IOBE director Nikos Vettas, presenting the report’s findings, said without “mobilising powerful forces of production” the country risked a swift return to recession and could again struggle with debt repayment.

# A new opinion poll is projecting an outright win for New Democracy. The Metron Analysis survey for Alpha television gave New Democracy 28.8 percent support, Syriza 21 percent, the Socialist Movement for Change 6.7 percent, Golden Dawn 5.1percent and the Communist KKE 5 percent _ while undecided voters made up 11.1 percent. New Democracy’s lead was a fraction lower (7.3 percent) when respondents were asked how they would vote in next month’s European Parliament elections.

# The Supreme Court has ruled that borrowers who took out loans in Swiss francs will have to repay them at the current exchange rate, rejecting claims that the customers were misled by banks. Loans in the Swiss currency were popular in the years preceding Greece’s financial crisis. The ruling was issued before a class-action case is to be heard next month involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs who are seeking repayment at the rates existing when the loans were granted.

# Labour Ministry data shows that the net number of new jobs created stood at 43,373 in March, with flexible forms of employment amounting to 54.12 percent of total recruitment. The figures from the government Ergani database, used to track employment, showed the balance dropping from March 2018 when the net number was 55,494 jobs. Just over 45 percent, or 19,878, of the new jobs came from the hospitality and catering industry.

# Hotels in the Greek capital have seen a 6.8 percent occupancy decline in the first quarter of the year, as well as a 6.8 percent drop in revenue per available room, according to the greater Athens Hotel Association. Hotel businesses, the association said, are being burdened by outdated operating rules and multiple taxes while short-term apartment rental services like Airbnb have poorly enforced standards.

On our Radar: Misery Chart
Greece remains the world’s fifth most miserable economy according to an annual index compiled by Bloomberg. The top-5 nations in 2018 were Venezuela, Argentina, South Africa, Turkey and Greece _ all with positions forecast to remain unchanged this year.  The Misery Index relies on employment and inflation data, with economist surveys used to make forecasts. The least miserable? Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and Denmark.