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Refugee crisis could cause 'significant problems' to Greece: OECD

AFP , Thursday 10 Mar 2016
Refugee Crisis
Refugees and their tents reflect in a mud puddle at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni on March 10, 2016, where thousands of refugees and migrants are trapped by the Balkan border blockade. (Photo: AFP)
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The refugee crisis could shave as much as 0.35 percentage points off growth in cash-strapped Greece, the OECD said Thursday, warning that the flood of migrants could cause "significant problems."

Already battered by years of recession, Greece could eke out "mildly positive" growth this year, returning to around 2.0 percent expansion in 2017, OECD chief Angel Gurria said.

"We're thinking that because of the reforms, we're going to see positive growth next year," said the organisation's secretary general following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras.

However, the OECD's annual survey on Greece cautioned that the migrant crisis could pose "significant problems" for the country.

According to Greek officials, the country has already paid nearly 300 million euros ($326 million) out of its own meagre funds in a bid to shelter some 40,000 refugees and migrants.

"Official estimates suggest a preliminary cost of around 0.35 percent of GDP in 2015," the OECD said.

A Greek government source said Athens had already paid some 278 million euros ($305 million) in national funds to turn several old army camps nationwide into accommodation for refugees trapped in the country after Balkan states tightened their borders.

"The army has been working flat out," the official told AFP.

The European Union recently announced a 700-million-euro emergency aid plan for Greece and other states hit by the migrant crisis, but the money is to be released over three years.

Athens had asked for nearly half a billion euros to help shelter 100,000 refugees.

Gurria argued that the refugee crisis could eventually begin to impact the economic targets painstakingly negotiated between Greece and its international creditors.

"You have not exacerbated your debt and deficit numbers ... but there is a limit to how much you can do that," he said.

"If you continue to increase the numbers, then you could get into a situation where that goes against these limits that you're negotiating so carefully," he told reporters.

He said his organisation was helping Greece assess policy challenges, giving technical opinions on draft legislation and providing advice in Athens' talks with the creditors.

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