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Greece says 2020 spending on COVID-19 support may top 24 bln euros

by Reuters
Friday, 4 September 2020 08:48 GMT

ATHENS, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Greece expects to spend around 24 billion euros ($28.4 billion) this year to cushion businesses and workers against the economic impact of COVID-19 but has the resources to increase that sum, its finance minister said on Friday.

An early lockdown in March helped Greece contain coronavirus infections at relatively low levels compared to other EU states. But the quarantine brought the bulk of business activity to a standstill, and global travel restrictions have taken an additional toll on its tourism-reliant economy.

"(Total spending) will be about 24 billion euros," Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told Greek radio Thema FM.

"But depending on the needs that will arise in the coming period, we have now... the resources to increase that," he said, referring to outstanding cash reserves of about 37 billion euros.

Staikouras told Reuters the timeframe in question was up to the end of 2020.

Greece's economy shrank 14% between April and June, marking its steepest quarterly contraction in at least 25 years and threatening to undermine a decade of hard-won gains.

Athens has allocated about 15 billion euros so far in salary subsidies, tax deferrals and other measures also including credit offered by banks to businesses hit by the pandemic, Staikouras said.

Greece, which emerged from its third and final international bailout in 2018 , has raised about 10 billion euros through debt issuance this year, including 2.5 billion euros from the reopening of a 10-year bond on Wednesday.

It reported 241 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the total number of infections to almost 11,000.​ ($1 = 0.8449 euros) (Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou; editing by John Stonestreet)

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