HSBC Treasury Management Profiles 2018 -

Current section, Introduction

Introduction

In August 2018, Greece is set to end its third bailout programme; the country was left financially crippled in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and sought, and received, three bailouts from the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and IMF (EUR266 billion in total). In return for financial aid, the government embarked on an austerity programme of tax rises, pension reform and spending cuts. It also introduced structural reforms to help boost exports; exports grew 6.9 per cent in 2017. In 2017, the country’s growth was the lowest of all Eurozone countries, with a rise of 1.4 per cent according to ECB figures. The Eurozone average was 2.3 per cent. Growth of 2.3 per cent and 2 per cent is forecast for 2018 and 2019 respectively. The country’s budget surplus (equal to 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2017) exceeded expectations (under its third bailout programme, a primary surplus target of 1.75 per cent of GDP was set for 2017). A target of 3.5 per cent is set for 2018 and 2019, an achievement seen as vindication of the country’s efforts to reign in expenditure, reform the economy and improve tax compliance. The primary balance does not include interest payments on debt which is equivalent to 178.60 per cent of GDP (180.80 per cent of GDP in 2016). A decade of austerity measures has impacted on the country’s population standard of living. The number of people living on the poverty line remains a pressing issue; unemployment is high (20.6 per cent in January 2018); and the average annual income is EUR19,9000 (in 2006, before the crisis, GDP per capita was EUR23,550). Future growth, according to the European Commission, lies in improving the business environment and attracting foreign investment. Greece is ranked as 61st out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. Net FDI inflows during 2017 reached EUR3,509.5 million, a 29.4 per cent increase on 2016.

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Legal and regulatory

  • Foreign exchange and domestic currency (EUR) accounts can be held by residents both domestically and abroad. Resident domestic currency accounts are convertible into foreign currency
  • Non-resident bank accounts are permitted in both foreign and domestic currency. Non-resident domestic currency accounts can be held abroad and are convertible into foreign currency
  • All transactions between residents and non-residents exceeding EUR50,000 must be reported to the central bank monthly
  • Capital controls on bank withdrawals and overseas transactions remain. For example, depositors are permitted to withdraw EUR2,300 in cash every month. A maximum threshold of EUR2,000 applies for money transfers abroad

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Taxation

  • Resident companies are taxed on their worldwide income
  • Non-resident companies are taxed on Greek-sourced income only
  • The standard rate of corporate taxation is 29 per cent
  • Withholding tax of 15 per cent applies to interest and dividends, unless reduced under an applicable tax treaty or relevant EU Directive

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Payment instruments and systems

  • Credit transfers are used for both high-value corporate and low-value retail payment transactions, and are the most popular method of payment in Greece. Cheque use is in decline. The use of post-dated cheques is permitted. Payment card use, particularly of debit cards, accounts for a third of all payments made. Individuals receive tax free allowances on payments made via credit or debit cards, or other method of electronic payment
  • Greece operates three national payment systems: TARGET2-GR, an RTGS system; DIAS Interbanking Systems for retail payments; and the ACO, for paper-based payments

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Cash management

  • Notional pooling is permitted but not typically offered. Cash concentration is permitted between resident and non-resident accounts. Cross-currency cash pools are available
  • Automated collection methods are used by the majority of medium-sized and large businesses in Greece. Lockbox services are also available

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Electronic banking

  • Electronic banking is available in Greece. There is no bank-independent electronic banking standard
  • Internet and mobile banking services are provided by all of the country’s banks for both corporate and retail purposes

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Sources

  • International Monetary Fund
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • ELSTAT (Hellenic Statistical Authority)
  • Eurostat
  • World Bank
  • Eurofound
  • Bank of Greece

The materials contained on this page were assembled in June 2017 (unless otherwise dated).

 

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